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What's Being Done To Curb Opioid Abuse In ERs, Doctor's Offices?

On Monday, in response to new, bleak opioid death numbers, Gov. Ducey declared a statewide health emergency.

Last year saw a spike in deaths of about 16 percent over the previous year, more than a 70 percent increase since 2012.

And while the majority of those nearly 800 deaths were due to prescription drugs,  heroin is rapidly catching up, tripling since 2012, a stat firmly rooted in opioid abuse, says Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. She says 80 percent of heroin users started as prescription drugs users.

And last year, there were more than 431 million opioid pills prescribed in Arizona. That’s 62 pills for every person in the state, according to the Governor’s Office.

So what’s being done to curb this abuse on the front lines where it begins in emergency rooms, doctors offices and clinics? For more on that, I spoke with Dr. Christopher Wei, a pain specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.

Ducey listed four priorities this week, including to develop guidelines to educate healthcare providers on responsible prescribing practices, so, I asked Dr. Wei to tell us, first, what are things like now.

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.