Opioid Prescribing Remains High Nationally — CDC

Opioid Prescribing Remains High Nationally — CDC

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report that says American doctors are prescribing less opioids to people dealing with pain. In 2015, six times more opioids per resident were dispensed in the highest-prescribing counties than in the lowest-prescribing ones.

The reasons weren't entirely clear, but numerous counties on the high end had a greater percentage of white residents, higher prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis, higher unemployment and fewer big cities.

The amount of opioid painkillers prescribed in the United States decreased in most parts of the country from a peak in 2010 through 2015, including in much of Western New York.

Some pockets of the country, particularly in Appalachia, remain above the national average in per-person prescriptions.

The good news is that half of the counties saw a decrease in prescriptions for powerful painkiller from 2010 to 2015. The average daily morphine-equivalent dose per prescription has declined each year since 2006.

Overall prescribing has fallen in the past few years, but the amount of opioids per person was still three times higher in 2015 than it was in 1999. She also called for increased prescribing of naloxone and pointed to the AMA's own task force recommendations.

Experts said strong pain killers should be used for people with terminal cancer or other incurable conditions. The CDC data were based on the location of pharmacies where opioids were picked up, so people who lived elsewhere but filled their prescriptions in Martinsville could have contributed to its high rate.

The issue has reached epidemic proportions.

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CDC said higher amounts of opioids were prescribed in counties with a greater percentage of non-Hispanic white residents, a greater prevalence of diabetes and arthritis, micropolitan areas (non-metro small cities and big towns), and higher unemployment. The prescribing rates for these longer supplies of the drug jumped 58.9 percent between 2006 and 2012, from 17.6 to 28 prescriptions per 100 persons.

Those strategies include implementing opioid prescribing guidelines for physicians, which largely match the CDC's opioid prescribing guidelines.

The government estimates that more than 2 million people are addicted to opioids in the U.S. Just in 2014 alone, about 1.27 million emergency-room visits or inpatient hospital stays for opioid-related health problems were reported, said another government agency in June.

The report praised Ohio, Kentucky and Florida as states in which significant reductions have occurred, thanks to prescription monitoring and public health programs that target hot spots and promote alternative means to relieve chronic pain.

Opioid prescriptions dropped in Manhattan by roughly 20%, from 684 milligrams per patient to 545.

In 2016, opioids played a role in 541 fatal overdoses in CT, state data shows. For acute pain, prescribe only the number of days that the pain is expected to be severe enough to require opioids. 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.

But while fewer new prescriptions are being written, existing patients are receiving larger doses and for longer periods of time, factors that doctors said contribute to persistent addiction levels.

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