The Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse (CCYSA), which is a program of ICAN, hosted a community “Call to Action” recently regarding Prescription (Rx) Drug Abuse. I was shocked at the sobering statistics that were presented. There were 579 million class II-IV pills (painkillers) prescribed in Arizona in 2014 – that’s enough to medicate every person in Arizona round-the-clock for two weeks straight. The Centers for Disease Control have classified Rx Drug Abuse as a national epidemic.

So who is affected? For one, our youth – and Chandler is unfortunately higher than average: 7.6 percent of youth in Chandler reported using Rx drugs in the last 30 days and the average for the state is 6.3 percent. What’s even more startling is that 1 in 8 who misused Rx drugs started in elementary school and 72 percent started before they could legally drive. Where are these youth getting the Rx drugs? Their parent’s medicine cabinet, or maybe grandma’s purse. In fact, 77.8 percent of Chandler youth who have misused Rx drugs in the past 30 days report getting them from friends, family or right out of the home. The largest growth population of Rx drug abuse currently is adults aged 45-54 and even seniors because this population may be experiencing pain for the first time in their lives. Unfortunately, some become dependent, which can lead them down a dark path to illegal use and cheaper solutions for their habit which can result in heroin addiction.

Arizona ranks 12th highest in the nation for individuals 12-plus years misusing and abusing Rx drugs. The statistics are alarming, and as a result the Arizona Substance Abuse Partnership, along with many state and local partners, have launched a multi-systemic effort to reduce prescription drug misuse and abuse in Arizona. The program was piloted in three counties where they saw a 28 percent reduction in rates of opioid-related deaths, while non-pilot counties saw a 4 percent increase. The effort centers around five core strategies:

1. Reduce illicit acquisitions and diversion of prescription drugs.

What can you do? Lock up your Rx drugs or just get rid of them! Chandler police have drop boxes at their substations for safe disposal.

2. Promote responsible prescribing and dispensing policies and practices.

What can you do? Talk to your doctors and ask them if they use the Arizona Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program (CSPMP). Unfortunately, only 34 percent of prescribers in Maricopa County are signed up for the program and even less actually use the program.

3. Enhance Rx drug practice and policies in law enforcement.

What can you do? Support your local law enforcers by helping keep an eye on the community – call them if you are suspicious about someone’s actions.

4. Increase public awareness and patient education and Rx drug misuse.

What can you do? Over half of Arizona youth has never talked to their parents about alcohol or drugs! AND the No. 2 reason Chandler teens say that they choose not to use drugs is “parent disapproval” – YES, teens do care what their parents think, but you need to talk to them! Need some help in that area? Visit ALSO – if you would like to schedule a presentation on the topic for a group of people, please email

5. Enhance assessment and referral to substance abuse treatment.

What can you do? Maybe you know someone who is already in trouble. Get them help! Organizations such as Community Bridges provide crisis care, along with in-patient and out-patient treatment. Need help? Call the crisis line at 602-222-9444.

This model has proven effective at combating this epidemic in our state. CCYSA, along with Chandler police, Dignity Health, Chandler Unified School District and our local elected officials have committed to working with the state agencies to put this plan into action in Chandler. I encourage everyone to join our crusade! Whether you take steps to educate yourself and others or step into a leadership role and volunteer to join CCYSA (learn more at or contact – everyone one of us can do their part!

• Becky Jackson is president and CEO of ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth.

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