Changes could be coming on how doctors prescribe painkillers in Arizona

- There could be some changes in future for painkiller prescriptions in Arizona.

Beginning in June, the Arizona Department of Health Services has been collecting data on opioid overdoses and deaths, after Governor Doug Ducey declared a public health emergency over the opioid epidemic. According to the numbers, heroin and oxycodone are most common in overdoses.

In addition, the state's "Opioid Overdose Epidemic Response Report", shows the majority of overdose patients are white men, between the ages of 25-34. The data shows that most overdoses happen withing the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas.

During the 70-day monitoring period, more than 2,100 possible opioid overdoses were recorded, resulting in nearly 280 deaths. The age, gender, location, and type of drug were also recorded, which gave officials a good look at exactly who's abusing opioids, and how they got the drugs.

"Those that had a prescription of opioids had over 10 prescribers each," said Dr. Cara Christ.

More than 2,000 providers reportedly wrote prescriptions to patients who eventually overdosed. 287 providers wrote prescriptions that led to a deadly overdose. With the new statistics, DHS has outlined several new laws and policies, aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. One of them requires doctors to police a patient's opioid use by checking a state database, to see if that patient has seen several other doctors for the same drug.

"So you can go in and see what opioids that were prescribed, providing provider education making sure providers know there are additional resources," said Dr. Christ.

Other recommendations include requiring doctors to e-prescribe, sending opiod prescriptions straight to pharmacies, which eliminates paper, in addition to imposing a five-day limit on first-time opioid patients, and giving law enforcement more leeway in charging illegal drug dealers, and reckless providers.

"There's always going to be a couple of bad actors that overprescribe or run pill mills," said Dr. Christ.

The Arizona Department of Health has submitted 12 recommendations to Gov. Ducey.

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