CDC works 247 to save lives and protect people. This month’s Vital Signs focuses on our nation’s prescription drug overdose epidemic. Every single day, 46 Americans die from an overdose of prescription opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin, or methadone. These drugs are commonly prescribed in every community. Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012, enough for every single adult in the country to have a bottle of pills. Where you live makes a difference in whether your doctor is likely to give you one of these prescriptions.

Health care providers in some states write almost three times as many opioid painkiller prescriptions per person as doctors in other states. That doesn’t make sense. Health issues that cause pain don’t vary much from statetostate and these drugs are dangerous drugs. Cities and states across our country have taken steps to improve opioid prescribing practices. These steps include regulating pain clinics and instituting sensible opioid prescribing guidelines. Another promising solution is getting data from statebased prescription drug monitoring programs out to prescribers in real time. The goal of these programs is to ensure that patients have access.

To safe, effective pain treatment, but also provide prescribers with the realtime information they need about their patients to prevent dangerous use of drugs that can be dangerous. Florida 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 overdoses declined in parallel. In fact, it declined by nearly a quarter in just two years. Leadership makes a difference, and that has to come from state health departments, state governments, medical boards, medical societies, policy makers, and governors.

Opioid Painkiller Prescribing Where You Live Makes a Difference


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