Pima County report on opioid use shows it's widespread - Tucson News Now

Pima County report on opioid use shows it's widespread

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A new Pima County report on opioid use shows the problem has not grown here as it has in many places in the Mid-West and other parts of the country.

The number of annual deaths has risen from 222 in 2010 to 263 in 2016 and has leveled off in the past three years.

With the use of Narcan, education, and greater public awareness it's hoped that number will fall in the coming years.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared the opioid epidemic a Public Health State of Emergency in June.

The county report was in response the the declaration. You can read the full report below: 

Update on Opioid Misuse in Pima County by Tucson News Now on Scribd

It was prepared by Pima County public health officials.

According to the report, the issue of drug abuse is widespread in Pima County and no place is immune.

Two areas of concern are the Pasqua Yaqui Nation and the Catalina Foothills, two very diverse communities.

"We know that it is everywhere," said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Chief Medical Officer and Assistant County Administrator for Pima County, who helped prepare the survey. "There is not a corner of the community that is not impacted by this."

But while the opioid issue in Pima County likely cannot be called a crisis or epidemic, it does not mean it's not serious. 

"There is a tendency in our country and our culture to have a disease of the week," Garcia said. "Opioids happens to be that today."

Most of the opioid deaths in Pima County are the result of a mixture of drugs which is especially dangerous.

"Somebody who has some alcohol, the oxycodone for the knee injury and maybe one or two other things, that would have a compounding effect of taking all of those things at the same time," said Dr. Gregory Hess, the Chief Medical Examiner and contributor to the survey. "That may result in death."

Hess says most of the overdose deaths he sees at the morgue are the result of multiple drugs taken one on top of the other. 

The county says it will continue to update the survey every few months to spot trouble areas, insure the communities social service agencies are on board, and to form a long term strategy. 

"Taking an approach that is just solely focused on opioids is going to miss the boat," Garcia said. 

The memorandum also shows that a majority of the people who require hospital stays for opioid overdoses are either Medicaid of Medicare patients.

The costs for hospitalization for opioid overdoses is $239 million a year for taxpayers, either federal or local. 

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