Prescription Drug Reduction Initiative

In November 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report indicating that deaths from prescription (Rx) pain relievers have reached epidemic proportions in the United States (CDC Vitalsigns November 2011). It is estimated that 40 deaths per day are due to prescription drugs, exceeding the number of deaths related to heroin and cocaine combined. For the first time in history, drug poisoning deaths have become the number one cause of accidental deaths in America.

Arizona is no exception to this problem.

  • According to data from Arizona’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, between 2009 and 2011, there were approximately 10 million Class II-IV prescriptions written each year in Arizona. Prescription pain relievers accounting for over half of the drugs dispensed.
  • In 2010, 13% of Arizona adults reported some type of prescription drug misuse in the past 30 days, with half of the misuse related to prescription pain relievers. Likewise, in 2010, 10.4% of Arizona youth reported some type of prescription drug misuse in the past 30 days, with an alarming 76.7% of the misuse involving prescription pain relievers.
  • Arizona has also seen a corresponding, and dramatic, increase in opioid-related cases in Emergency Departments and drug poisoning deaths involving Rx drugs (Arizona Department of Health Services).

To address the growing concern over Rx drug misuse in Arizona and related consequences, the Arizona Substance Abuse Partnership (ASAP) has endorsed a Prescription Drug Reduction Initiative.

As a first-step toward the development of this initiative, the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families and the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission hosted a Prescription Drug Expert Panel in February 2012 that involved local experts from law enforcement, the prevention field, and the medical community. Using the strategies proposed by the Office of Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) as a starting point, the experts and attendees formulated a set of data-and-research-driven strategies to be used in a multi-systemic, multi-agency collaborative approach to reduce prescription drug misuse in Arizona.

State Agencies Involved
1. Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families
  • Leadership and guidance on the initiative and liaison with the Arizona Substance Abuse Partnership and the Epidemiology Work Group
2. Arizona Criminal Justice Commission
  • County-level pilot coordination
  • Data-driven consultation for programmatic implementation
  • Process and outcome evaluation for the initiative
3. Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Development and training on Best Practice Guidelines for Opioid Prescribing in the Emergency Department
  • Data-sharing for the evaluation (Rx-related ED visits and deaths; neonate exposure to Rx opioids)
4. Arizona State Board of Pharmacy
  • Training on use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Project
  • Quarterly report-cards sent to all pilot prescribers to help them self-monitor prescribing practices
  • Data-sharing for the evaluation (type and number of pills prescribed; increases in PDMP sign up)
5. Arizona Department of Public Safety
  • Data-sharing for the evaluation (Rx drugs found in DUI crime lab analyses)

Rx Home

Rx Toolkit

Initiative Strategies

Initiative Counties

Rx Drug Disposal

Prescribers and Dispensers

Data and Evaluation