Arizona hospital emergency rooms saw an 86 percent increase in admissions related to painkiller abuse between 2008 and 2011; nearly half of the admissions were paid for through Arizona's public health-care program or through Medicaid, reports the Arizona Republic. The number of deaths involving prescription drugs increased by more than 50 percent between 2006 and 2010. “There were enough prescription pain relievers prescribed in 2012 to medicate every single adult in Arizona for two weeks,” said Shana Malone of the state Criminal Justice Commission.
The news was alarming enough to prompt a wide-ranging group of pharmacists, prosecutors, doctors, police officers and educators to start a comprehensive prevention program. A year later, experts say the efforts are starting to pay off. The goal now, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said, is to replicate the success throughout the state. The most valuable tool is the prescription-drug management program, said Dr. Leon Cattolico of Prescott. The statewide database allows doctors, pharmacists and police to see which controlled substances have been prescribed, who wrote and filled the prescriptions, and how many days' supply the patients got. The program can help prevent “doctor shopping,” whereby patients visit multiple doctors, emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics to stock up on pills and feed their addictions.