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Report Finds Arizona Has One of the Highest Overdose Rates, But State Officials Disagree

Young man eating a spoon full of medicineFrom the east coast to the west coast, from the inner city to the suburbs, heroin is taking over U.S. neighborhoods. Due to the widespread sale and overprescription of Oxycontin over the last decade, countless Americans have entered treatment for opioid dependence and heroin addiction. Others haven’t been so fortunate.

And according to a new report from Trust for America’s Health, Arizona had one of the highest rates of teen and young adult overdose deaths in the country. At the same time, the report concluded that Arizona offers too few programs and policies aimed to prevent drug abuse in young people.

The state-by-state report found that Arizona averaged 10.2 overdose deaths per 100,000 teens between 2011 and 2013, the eighth highest rate in the nation. The report also confirms the escalation of opioid dependency, as the fatal overdose rate was more than double the rate of four deaths per 100,000 recorded in Arizona between 1999 and 2001. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration, the average in all 50 states among all age groups is 7.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

Opioid addiction rates and fatal overdoses are on the rise nationwide. Including other drugs and alcohol, at least 24.6 million Americans are believed to suffer from substance abuse, and there are more than 500,000 heroin users in the country. Experts say more than 75% of people addicted to prescription painkillers will eventually turn to heroin, which is now stronger, cheaper and more widely available than at any time in the past.

Not everyone agrees with the new Trust for America’s Health report, which did factor in drug-related deaths that involved violence or accidents. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the official overdose rate for Arizona residents aged 15 to 24 was actually 7.4 per 100,000.

“Overdose rates are different all over the country,” said Richard Hamburg of Trust for America’s Health. “But the pockets we’ve seen that are particularly high are in a number of Western states.”

Organizations like Drug Free Arizona Kids seek to educate parents about helping young people with drug or alcohol problems, and the state government did increase funding for mental health services this year. Even so, the new report determined that Arizona, like other states, lacked the programs needed to effectively dam the rush of heroin into the state.

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