PHOENIX (KSAZ) - "Arizona is taking immediate and aggressive action against the opioid epidemic," said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
Ducey is vowing once again to fight the opioid epidemic head-on and on Monday, he called for a special session, to begin enacting legislation that he and other state lawmakers believe will put a dent in this crisis.
Opioid abuse has taken a massive toll around the country and across the state. How might Ducey's proposal help? His plan includes measures such as barring doctors from prescribing more than a five-day supply of pain medication. It also lays out tougher penalties for doctors who violate that requirement, boost pain clinic regulation and adds $10 million to help uninsured people get addiction treatment.
Ducey also reassured all Arizonans with chronic pain who rely on these drugs to ease that pain -- that they will continue to get them as needed, and that's especially reassuring for some recovering addicts.
FOX 10 talked to two men about their experience with opioids and how they support Ducey's proposal.
We first met Chris Taylor last spring when his hometown of Safford was reeling from an opioid epidemic. He's a veteran, recovering addict and now a city councilman.
"..used to say, okay, I'm gonna quit today.. your brain tells your body that you need this to survive," he said.
Taylor looks at Ducey's push for an opioid fix as a step in the right direction, but the issue isn't as simple as taking pills away.
"I wish that this step was put in place 10 years ago in Arizona because we now have so many people past that point and moved to heroin and moved to different opioids that are stronger," he said.
"We have faced these issues before as a nation and as a state. Whether it was crack cocaine or methamphetamine. This epidemic is unique because it often starts at a doctor's office or from behind a pharmacy window," said Ducey.
"A lot of people have surgery and only take them for five days, but they have 30 days' worth.. and they sit in a cabinet and someone is going to take them. It's bound to happen, said Kevin Loughran, who started using opioids when he got out of college.
Loughran's nearly 10-year struggle ended with him beating back a terrible addiction. It started with painkillers that he says were simply too easy to get.
"I think it was a party.. somebody had Percocets.. out of control constantly every day," he said. "It just spiraled out of control. A few, then every other day, then multiple a day.. went from eating them, sniffing them to heroin."
He overdosed and nearly died.
"All I remember is waking up on the porch of a friend's house.. two paramedics standing over me.. it was kind of scary," he said. "I really was not breathing much.. such a blur.. only remember waking up which was very, very scary."
He got help at Scottsdale Recovery Center, where he now works. Loughran believes Gov. Ducey's proposal to shorten opioid prescriptions to five days' worth is a good idea.
"I think that should definitely pass. They are overprescribed. I know a lot of people who started doing them because they could go into their parents' medicine cabinet and take them," he said.
Some doctors worry that the five-day limit on painkiller prescriptions could have bad effects on some patients with chronic pain conditions. They may end up being exceptions to that rule -- this is something that will be discussed in the special session.