New CDC Vital Signs: Opioid Painkiller Prescribing
Where you live makes a difference
Every day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the U.S. Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills, according to a new Vital Signs report. Health care providers in some states prescribed far more painkillers than those in other states. Higher prescribing of painkillers is a serious problem because it is associated with more overdose deaths.
- Prescriptions for opioid painkillers were distributed unevenly throughout the U.S. Health care providers in the highest prescribing state wrote almost three times as many opioid painkiller prescriptions per person as those in the lowest prescribing state. Southern states, especially Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia, had the most painkiller prescriptions per person.
- States can address the overprescribing of painkillers: States can 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) and through policy options (including laws and regulation relating to pain clinics to reduce prescribing practices that are risky to patients).
- Florida is one example of a state that has reversed its overdose trend. After statewide legislative and enforcement actions in 2010 and 2011, painkiller prescribing declined, and the death rate from prescription drug overdose decreased 23 percent by 2012.
Everyone can prevent misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers by never selling or sharing prescription drugs. Get help for substance abuse problems (1-800-662-HELP) and call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) with questions about medicines. For more information about prescription drug overdoses, please visit CDC's Injury Center.
CDC Media Relations
Tom Frieden, MD, MPH
“Prescription drug overdose is epidemic in the United States. All too often, and in far too many communities, the treatment is becoming the problem,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Overdose rates are higher where these drugs are prescribed more frequently. States and practices where prescribing rates are highest need to take a particularly hard look at ways to reduce the inappropriate prescription of these dangerous drugs."
Tom Frieden, MD, MPH - Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, MPH
“Change at the state level shows the greatest promise. States can consider ways to increase the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and make statewide changes relating to pain clinics. Together we can reduce the risk of overdose, while making sure all patients in all states have access to safe, effective pain treatment."
Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, MPH - Medical Epidemiologist, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, NCIPC
- Press Release: Opioid painkiller prescribing varies widely among states: English | Spanish
- MMWR - Vital Signs: Variation Among States in Prescribing of Opioid Pain Relievers and Benzodiazepines — United States, 2012 | PDF[400 KB]
- Vital Signs: Home | July 2014 Vital Signs | Factsheet PDF[1.18MB] | Issues
- Vital Signs (Spanish): Home | July 2014 Vital Signs |Factsheet PDF[1.18MB] | Issues
- Vital Signs: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses: A Growing Epidemic, Especially Among Women
- Vital Signs: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses: Use and Abuse of Methadone as a Painkiller
- Vital Signs: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses in the US
- Prescription Drug Overdose
- Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses
- Common Elements in Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain
- MedlinePlus - Prescription Drug Abuse
- MedlinePlus - Pain Relievers
- The White House - Office of National Drug Control Policy
- SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction: Facts for Families and Friends
- Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit
- Buprenorphine Treatment Locator
- Mental Health Treatment Locator
- Drug Enforcement Administration - Office of Diversion Control
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
- Opioid and Pain Management CMEs/CEs
- Prescription Drugs
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Drugs Information
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Mental health medications
- PDMP Center of Excellence, Brandeis University
- The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care
- National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws
- Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) - Linking PDMPs to Health IT
- Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Initiative
- National Action Plan for Adverse Drug Event Prevention
- CMS Improvements to Medicare Drug and Health Plans
- Page last reviewed: July 1, 2014
- Page last updated: July 1, 2014
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