Verde Valley pill popping new battleground for MATForce
Six deaths in the Verde Valley linked to prescription medications
COTTONWOOD -- MATForce, Yavapai County's substance abuse coalition that brought down the hammer on methamphetamine abuse, is now turning a brighter spotlight on the prescription drug abuse problem.
The Verde Valley Steering Committee spent a work session Wednesday fine-tuning recommendations to reduce the supply of the problem drugs at their source: doctors and pharmacies.
Cottonwood Detective Sgt. Tod Moore, a member of the local steering committee, told members there have been six deaths in the Verde Valley linked to prescription medications, often mixed with alcohol, during the past six months alone.
MATForce, co-chaired by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh, has already been active in a campaign to get expired and unused medications out of home medicine cabinets.
MATForce Director Marilee Fowler says the group's Dump the Drugs campaigns throughout Yavapai County have collected 5,000 pounds of prescription medications.
Another Dump the Drugs event will be part of the Cottonwood area National Night Out Aug. 2 at the Cottonwood Kids Park.
Still, MATForce is attempting to reduce drug abuse at the source.
A pharmacist told the Cottonwood group that after moving to Arizona she was stunned at how loose regulations were here, compared with other states, from the State Pharmacy Board on down to the local level.
She said she was surprised at the number of powerful drugs that go out the door each day.
MATForce is recommending better communication between pharmacists and doctors and access for all pharmacists and physicians to the state monitoring system to better understand what drugs are being prescribed to avoid duplication.
The group wants to determine what doctors are prescribing the highest numbers of pain medications listed under the Controlled Substances Act. Those are prescribed medications that have the potential for abuse and include oxycodone, morphine, and amphetamines along with a series of other lesser-known drugs.
The group would develop a list of "no prescriptions filled" for "pill shoppers."
They say some people will go from pharmacy to pharmacy to get prescriptions filled multiple times.
One member told of an incident in which a woman had acquired 800 doses of a narcotic-like pain reliever called Tramadol in a single month.
The pharmacist told the group that a dose of Vicodin that sells on the street for $10 in Phoenix could command $50-$60 from a dealer on the street in Cottonwood.
Camp Verde Marshal Dave Smith cautioned the group not to encourage laws that would have a detrimental impact on patients who need the drugs.