Despite Improvements, Opioid Prescribing Remains High In Arizona Counties

By Will Stone
Published: Thursday, July 6, 2017 - 4:15pm

The amount of opioids prescribed in most Arizona counties has decreased or stabilized in recent years. But new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show parts of the state still have more opioids being doled out than much of the country.

Half of U.S. counties saw a decrease in the amount of opioids prescribed per person between 2010 and 2015. In Arizona, that included Pima, Santa Cruz, Graham and Maricopa Counties. Despite that drop, seven of Arizona's counties remain in the highest quartile nationally with Mohave and Gila Counties leading the state.

“We saw higher opioid prescribing in counties with small cities or towns,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the CDC, said on Thursday. The affected counties "had a greater percentage of white residents, were where a higher concentration of primary care physicians or dentists worked, or where more people were unsinured or unemployed.”

But Schuchat says these factors only explain about a third of the wide variation in opioid prescribing across the U.S. She says the results show a need for more consistency among providers.

Last month, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared the opioid epidemic a public health crisis. Since then, the state has started collecting real-time data on overdoses. The most recent numbers show that nearly 450 possible overdoses were reported in the second half of June, with the highest concentration in Maricopa and Pima Counties.

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