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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.

Graphics / Images

  • Infographic: Some states have more painkiller prescriptions per person than others.

    Some states have more painkiller prescriptions per person than others.
    Entire Infographic

  • Infographic: New laws and enforcement reverse trends in oxycodone prescribing and related deaths in Florida

    New laws and enforcement reverse trends in oxycodone prescribing and related deaths in Florida
    Entire Infographic

  • Infographic: Healthcare providers in different states prescribe at different levels.

    Healthcare providers in different states prescribe at different levels.
    Entire Infographic

  • Infographic: Making a differenc: State Successes

    Making a differenc: State Successes
    Entire Infographic

  • Infographic: Each day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the US.

    Each day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the US.

  • Infographic: Health care providers wrote 259 million presrcitpions for painkillers in 2102, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

    Health care providers wrote 259 million presrcitpions for painkillers in 2102, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

  • Infographic: 10 of the highest prescribing states for painkillers are in the South.

    10 of the highest prescribing states for painkillers are in the South.

  • Nuevas leyes y su cumplimiento revierten las tendencias en las prescripciones de oxicodona y las muertes asociadas a ellas en la Florida

    Nuevas leyes y su cumplimiento revierten las tendencias en las prescripciones de oxicodona y las muertes asociadas a ellas en la Florida.
    Infografía

  • Todos los días, 46 personas mueren en los EE. UU por una sobredosis de analgésicos recetados.

    Todos los días, 46 personas mueren en los EE. UU por una sobredosis de analgésicos recetados.

  • En el 2102, se prescribierion 259 millones de recetas de analgésicos en el 2012, una cantidad suficiente para que cada adulto en los EE. UU. Tuviera un frasco de medicamentos.

    En el 2102, se prescribierion 259 millones de recetas de analgésicos en el 2012, una cantidad suficiente para que cada adulto en los EE. UU. Tuviera un frasco de medicamentos.

  • 10 de los estados en donde se rectan más analgésicos están el sur.

    10 de los estados en donde se rectan más analgésicos están el sur.

  • Photo: Woman looking at a prescription bottle.

    Use prescription drugs only as directed by a health care provider, and store them in a secure place.

  • Photo: Spilled bottle of pills.

    Dispose of medications properly, as soon as the course of treatment is done. Do not keep prescription medications around "just in case."

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
media@cdc.gov

Spokespersons

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Biography

Thomas R. 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

Biography

Photo: 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

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