Posted on: June 29, 2017 Posted by: Dominique Perkins Comments: 0

By Sheila Sjolander, MSW and Tomi St. Mars MSN, RN, CEN, FAEN, Arizona Department of Health Services

 In the last decade, the number of prescription pain relievers sold in the United States increased by four-fold1, with Americans consuming nearly 80% of the global supply of prescription opioids2. This has led to widespread opioid abuse and addiction throughout the country. The latest data picture ranks our state as 15th highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths in 2014.3

While the impact of this epidemic has been devastating, Arizona has been proactive in addressing it head-on. In 2012, Arizona developed the Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative in a collaborative effort that included several state agencies, substance abuse coalitions, and other key stakeholders. This initiative is comprised of five key strategies that include:

  • Strategy 1: Reduce illicit acquisitions and diversion of Rx drugs
  • Strategy 2: Promote responsible prescribing and dispensing policies and practices
  • Strategy 3: Enhance Rx drug practices and policies among law enforcement
  • Strategy 4: Increase public awareness and patient education about Rx drug misuse and abuse
  • Strategy 5: Enhance assessment and referral to substance abuse treatment

Strategy 2 focuses on encouraging adoption of best practice guidelines, promoting continuing education, and increasing use of the Arizona Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring System (CSPMP) to prevent prescription drug diversion, misuse, and abuse. Strategy 2 also a contains a variety of resources that include the 2014 Arizona Opioid Prescribing Guidelines, Emergency Department Prescribing Guidelines, and Pharmacy Dispensing Guidelines. In addition to these guidelines, medical professionals can also take advantage of a free online Continuing Medical Education (CME) course that will allow them to integrate the 2014 Arizona Opioid Prescribing Guidelines into practice.

To support the implementation of this work, the Arizona Department of Health Services convened a Rx Initiative Health Care Advisory Team with active participation from the Arizona Medical Association as well as other professional associations. The team meets every other month to provide clinical expertise on developing educational materials and tools, to share best practices, and to engage networks and partners to take action. The team has made recommendations for new CME being developed by the University of Arizona, and put together a presentation that any health care provider can use to speak to others on the basics of the Arizona Opioid Prescribing Guidelines. The presentation, Arizona guidelines, and other clinical resources are posted at the ADHS Clinicians website,

Prescription drug abuse is a public health crisis not only affecting the individual, but the community as a whole. The Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Prevention Initiative provides communities with the necessary tools to join in the fight to end this epidemic and improve the health outcomes of all Arizonans.

Additional Resources
Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse & Abuse Initiative Community Toolkit
Arizona Opioid Prescribing Guidelines
Prescription Dropbox Locations
Suboxone-waivered provider training
Substance Abuse Data
Substance Abuse Providers/Resources
“Safe and Effective Opioid Prescribing while Managing Acute and Chronic Pain” – Online CME Course
  1. Prescription Painkiller Overdoses in the US. (2011, November 01). Retrieved March 08, 2017, from
  2. Bates, C., Laciak, R., Southwick, A., & Bishoff, J. (2011). Overprescription of postoperative narcotics: a look at postoperative pain medication delivery, consumption and disposal in urological practice. The Journal of urology, 185(2), 551-555.
  3. Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths – United States, 2000-2014. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, December 18. 2015. Poisonings among Arizona Residents 2014.