Navajo County To Investigate Deaths From Drug Overdose | Latest news

HOLBROOK – Navajo County will continue efforts to understand the plague of drug overdose deaths through an extension of its contract with Arizona State University, the State Department of Health and the federal government.

The Board of Directors at its last meeting approved new contracts to share autopsy data, exam reports, hospital admission data and other information as part of a nationwide effort to find out how to reduce the rising number of deaths from drug overdose.

Navajo County’s death rate from both drug and alcohol overdoses has remained well above the national average in recent years, with rates being particularly high on the reservations.

The county’s alcohol-related death rate is about 66 per 100,000 population and the drug overdose death rate is about 26 per 100,000, according to the Arizona Department of Vital Statistics in its 2018 Community Health Survey.

The death rate from drug overdose in Navajo County remains about 30% above the state and national average of 20 per 100,000.

“Substance abuse is a symptom of mental illness, not a lifestyle that people choose. Critical mental health care is lacking in our community, so many people with mental health problems self-medicate with alcohol and other substances. This pattern, which leads to substance abuse, is preventable through medical treatment, ”according to a trend report from the University of Arizona Health Sciences Research Center. “Navajo County’s residents are nearly four times more likely to die from alcohol abuse than the state as a whole. Our residents are also more likely to die from drug overdoses than across the country or country. These high rates of substance abuse affect everyone. It is important to realize that substance abuse and addiction are NOT limited to our tribal people. Drug-dependent disorders occur across the county, regardless of tribal or religious affiliation. That’s because substance abuse is a health condition, not a lifestyle or a moral choice. It can and should be treated with proper medical care.

The death rate from opiates skyrocketed in 2020 during the pandemic. According to preliminary figures, the number in 2020 will be 93,000 nationwide, 30% more than in the previous year.

Even before the pandemic, opiate use and abuse rose sharply in the country, driven by an increase in prescription pain medication abuse – which led to an increase in the illegal use of heroin and synthetic opiates. Recently, fentanyl has become a major problem on the black market. Often times, dealers mix fentanyl with other street drugs. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than most other opiates.

At the national level, the death rate from synthetic opioids like fentanyl rose by a staggering 1,100% between 2011 and 2017. Many of these overdose deaths involve mixing multiple drugs. People who buy illegal drugs often don’t even know that fentanyl has been added.

Navajo County reports five overdose deaths annually, with about 100 hospital admissions for overdose. Doctors suggest that some deaths from overdose can be attributed to other causes. The number of deaths peaked at 15 in 2010 and then fell sharply – before leveling off again. The improvement likely reflects the widespread use of naloxone – which, when given in a timely manner, can quickly reverse the effects of opiates.

The plague of overdose deaths had a huge impact on the elderly compared to heroin deaths, which highlighted earlier generations of opiate abuse. In the 10-year period up to 2017, there were 30 deaths among people over 45 years of age

Navajo County’s agreement to collect information on drug overdose deaths is part of a national effort to find out how to end the public health crisis.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other issues for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach out to him at [email protected]

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