U.S. painkiller prescription rates highest in South
A new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reflects an urgent need to change prescribing practices by doctors of painkillers, particularly in the South, which has some of the highest opioid prescription rates in the United States.
The report shows that in 2012, about 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid painkillers in the United States–enough for every adult in the country to have a bottle of pills. Southern states – particularly Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia – had the most painkiller prescriptions per person. In Alabama, there were 143 prescriptions for opioid prescriptions written for every 100 people, which is about three times the rate seen in Hawaii, which had the lowest rate among U.S. states, with 52 prescriptions per 100 people. At the same time, prescription rates for long-acting/extended-release painkillers and for high-dose painkillers, were the highest in the Northeast, particularly in Maine and New Hampshire.
The CDC said that such wide variations in painkiller prescriptions cannot be explained by differences in the health of people in different states. Instead, it suggests a lack of consistent, appropriate prescribing of painkillers across the nation. Opioid medications are very addictive, can suppress breathing and result in death. The report says that in 2011 nearly 17,000 deaths involved overdoses of opioid painkillers.
To address the issue, the CDC suggests that states increase their use of databases for prescription-drug monitoring programs, which track patients’ painkiller prescriptions. The databases can help identify prescribing problems, such as when multiple doctors are prescribing painkillers to the same patient.