The Number Of Opioid Prescriptions Doctors Write Varies Significantly From State To State.

These rates greatly impact the number of complications and deaths from opioid addiction revealed in new research from CDC.

The statistics are alarming!

  • Each day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the US.
  • Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
  • 10 of the highest prescribing states for painkillers are in the South.

Health care providers in some states prescribed far more painkillers than those in other states in 2012.

  • California healthcare providers on average wrote 57 painkiller prescriptions per 100 people, compared to the worst offenders in Alabama and Tennessee who wrote 143 prescriptions per 100 people.
  • The Northeast, especially Maine and New Hampshire, had the most prescriptions per person for long-acting and high-dose painkillers.
  • Nearly 22 times as many prescriptions were written for oxymorphone (a specific type of painkiller) in Tennessee as were written in Minnesota.

What might be causing this?

  • Health care providers in different parts of the country don’t agree on when to use prescription painkillers and how much to prescribe.
  • Some of the increased demand for prescription painkillers is from people who use them non-medically (using drugs without a prescription or just for the high they cause), sell them, or get them from multiple prescribers at the same time.
  • Many states report problems with for-profit, high-volume pain clinics (so-called “pill mills”) that prescribe large quantities of painkillers to people who don’t need them medically.

What Can Be Done?

CDC StateSuccesses

Following are recommendations from the CDC:

CDC States Image
What Can States Do?


  • Consider ways to increase use of prescription drug monitoring programs, which are state-run databases that track prescriptions for painkillers and can help find problems in overprescribing. Use of these programs is greater when they make data available in realtime, are universal (used by all prescribers for all controlled substances), and are actively managed (for example, send alerts to prescribers when problems are identified).
  • Consider policy options (including laws and regulation) relating to pain clinics to reduce prescribing practices that are risky to patients.
  • Evaluate their own data and programs and consider ways to assess their Medicaid, workers’ compensation programs, and state-run health plans to detect and address inappropriate prescribing of painkillers.
  • Identify opportunities to increase access to substance abuse treatment and consider expanding first responder access to naloxone, a drug used when people overdose.

Doctors and nursesWhat Should Health Care Providers Do?

  • Use prescription drug monitoring programs to identify patients who might be misusing their prescription drugs, putting them at risk for overdose.
  • Use effective treatments such as methadone or buprenorphine for patients with substance abuse problems.
  • Discuss with patients the risks and benefits of pain treatment options, including ones that do not involve prescription painkillers.
  • Follow best practices for responsible painkiller prescribing, including:
    • Screening for substance abuse and mental health problems.
    • Avoiding combinations of prescription painkillers and sedatives unless there is a specific medical indication.
    • Prescribing the lowest effective dose and only the quantity needed depending on the expected length of pain.

everyone_60px.jpgWhat Can You Do?

  • Avoid taking prescription painkillers more often than prescribed.
  • Dispose of medications properly, as soon as the course of treatment is done, and avoid keeping prescription painkillers or sedatives around “just in case.”
  • Help prevent misuse and abuse by not selling or sharing prescription drugs. Never use another person’s prescription drugs.
  • Get help for substance abuse problems by calling the NCADD Sacramento Hopeline at (916) 922-5122.

Read more about the CDC Study here.