A recently released survey of Maricopa County jail facilities shows a pronounced increase in the use of opiates, including prescription pain killers, among new inmates.
Law enforcement officials say the report by Arizona State University's Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety is significant because similar surveys in the past spotted the emergence of crack cocaine in the 1980s and methamphetamine abuse in the 1990s.
The rise in positive drug tests among new jail inmates include pain medications such as Vicodin, OxyContin, codeine, Demerol and Darvon.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chairman Don Stapley says what is alarming is the abuse of prescription drugs seems to be occurring countywide and not concentrated in areas where crime has always been a problem. Law enforcement officials say prescription drug abuse is second only to marijuana abuse and the problem continues to escalate.