Opioid prescriptions declining but remain high nationwide — CDC

Painkiller prescribing varies greatly by county

Head of the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat, said many doctors still prescribe too many pills, for too long at a high dosage.

A new report out Thursday offers a bit of hope: Doctors are prescribing opioids less often, and the average dose they're giving patients has dropped, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, prescribing practices are widely inconsistent and patients receive different care depending on where they live.

"While some variation in opioid prescribing is expected and linked to factors such as the prevalence of painful conditions, differences in these characteristics explain only a fraction of the wide variation in opioid prescribing across the United States", study author Dr. Deborah Dowell of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control said in a statement.

Additionally, the CDC found that the amount of opioid prescriptions peaked in the U.S.in 2010, then decreased each year through 2015.

The overall prescribing rate fell 13 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Overall, in 2015, Oklahoma saw an average of almost two unintentional poisoning deaths per day, and the majority of those deaths were drug overdoses caused by prescription drugs, said Avy Redus, who coordinates opioid-related projects at the state health department.

"The amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks", she said.


It's an 18% drop from 2010 - the year the most prescriptions were written - when patients received about 782 milligrams, officials said.

Chronic pain remains one of the top medical woes in the country, with opioids frequently prescribed to manage pain. It also has a higher unemployment rate than the average in Virginia, and a relatively high rate of people on disability.

The issue has reached epidemic proportions.

For example, the amount of opioid prescriptions - which includes drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl - filled in McClain County in 2015 was six times higher than the amount filled in Lincoln County, although the counties have similar populations. Approximately 15,000 of opioid-related deaths involved a prescription opioid. An estimated two million Americans had an opioid addiction in 2015.

The overprescription of painkillers has always been linked to a rise in addictions to illicit street opioids like heroin and fentanyl, which are oftentimes much cheaper and easier to obtain.

There are several possible reasons why micropolitan counties might have more opioid use, including "less access to quality health care and other treatments for pain, such as physical therapy", write the CDC researchers.

Also by July 1, all doctors and prescribers were required to sign up for the state prescription drug-monitoring program aimed at stemming "doctor shopping" in which patients visit multiple doctors seeking prescriptions.

Start with the lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids. Opioid use apart from cancer pain and palliative care pain is outlined in details. This trend is troubling, for research has shown that the risk of becoming addicted to prescription opioids increases with each day of use, starting as soon as the third day.

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