Prescription Drug Overdose

The Problem

During 2009–2010, approximately 17% of children and adolescents and 36% of adults were obese.4 US medical costs associated with adult obesity were approximately $147 billion in 2008.5

More about the problem

Deaths from prescription drug overdoses, particularly overdoses of prescription painkillers, have skyrocketed over the past decade. CDC and other agencies are working to identify and evaluate interventions to reduce overdose deaths. The Prevention Status Reports (PSRs) focus on policies and practices supported by emerging evidence, expert consensus, and/or extensive review of the primary drivers of the epidemic.

The PSRs highlight—for all 50 states and the District of Columbia—the status of two key practices that states can use to reduce prescription drug overdose:

Policies & Practices

State pain clinic law

A pain clinic law is rated green in the PSR if the law requires state oversight and contains other requirements concerning ownership and operation of pain management clinics, facilities, or practice locations.

Research shows that a small number of high-volume prescribers contribute disproportionately to the prescription drug overdose epidemic.2 Not all high-volume prescribers are prescribing for illegitimate reasons, so pain clinic laws are designed to target those clinics where drugs are prescribed inappropriately. Pain clinic laws hold promise for stopping doctor shopping and the most egregious overprescribing.

Status of state pain clinic laws, United States (as of July 2013)

(State count includes the District of Columbia.)

Prescription drug monitoring programs following selected best practices

State prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances. State PDMPs show early signs of changing providers’ prescribing practices and can yield valuable information for healthcare providers and regulatory agencies.

The PDMP Center of Excellenceexternal icon at Brandeis University has identified selected best practices that PDMPs should follow.3 These include

  1. Providing prescribers and dispensers access to PDMPs
  2. Demonstrating interoperability with the PDMP of at least one other state
  3. Proactively reporting to law enforcement and regulatory agencies

Status of state PDMPs following selected best practices, United States (as of July 2013)

Bar chart showing Status of state PDMPs following selected best practices, United States (as of July 2013). Green: 8 states had a PDMP that followed all three selected best practices. Yellow: 38 states had a PDMP that followed one or two selected best practices. Red: 5 states had a PDMP that did not follow any selected PDMP best practices, was authorized but was not yet operating, or did not exist. (State count includes the District of Columbia.)

(State count includes the District of Columbia.)

Prevention Status Reports: Prescription Drug Overdose, 2013

The files below are PDFs ranging in size from 100K to 500K. Adobe PDF document


  1. CDC. National Vital Statistics System [database]. Accessed Dec 10, 2012.
  2. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse
    Crisispdf icon[PDF – 306KB]external icon
    . Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President of the United States; 2011.
  3. PDMP Center of Excellence. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs: An Assessment of the Evidence for Best
    Practicepdf icon[PDF – 1.1MB]external icon
    . Waltham, MA: Brandeis University; 2012.

Page last reviewed: January 24, 2014