Prescription overdose deaths double in Arizona

Published: Nov. 30, 2011 at 5:00 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:20 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The number of prescription drug overdose deaths had doubled in Arizona, according to the latest report released earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control.

The most commonly abused medicine could be found in most homes.

"The most common drug overdose across the board is acetaminophen," pharmacist Debbie Van Sant said.

Prescribed pills like Oxycodone, Valium, and Vicodin also had a high probability for abuse.

"I've seen people take all those drugs in one shot," Van Sant said. "The biggest that's a favorite on the street is Oxycodone, 30 megs."

She added that it was easy to spot those trying to abuse the pills.  Most of them had no insurance, and would call in to check if the drug was available.

Van Sant said all pharmacists were required to record what drugs a patient took on the State Board of Pharmacy's prescription drug monitoring program, but there was a flaw in the system.

Not all pharmacists were required to cross check a patient to see if they were already in that database, and how often.

Many pharmacists did not do that and blindly fill the prescriptions, Van Sant said.

She gave us an example of a woman who had called her pharmacy to fill a prescription for Vicodin.  When Van Sant checked her name and date of birth on the monitoring program, she noted that the woman had filled that same prescription at different pharmacies, and received about 500 pills in just one month.

Van Sant said many of these pills probably ended up being sold on the streets.

The overdose problem is a nationwide epidemic.

The CDC recorded more than 14,000 deaths in 2009, that is about 40 overdose deaths in one day.

In Tucson, Keith Boesen, managing director of the Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center, said more than half the calls that come into the Poison Control Center are prescription overdose calls.

The local poison control office has recorded 22 overdose deaths to date this year.  Seven of those were acetaminophen overdose deaths.

Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.