Ten states in the South were among the states with the highest per-capita opioid prescribing rates in 2012, according to CDC.

CDC Calls Attention to Painkiller Prescribing Disparities

There is no health reason that can explain why health care providers in the highest-prescribing states wrote almost three times as many opioid painkiller prescriptions as their counterparts in the lowest-prescribing state.

In a new Vital Signs publication, CDC calls attention to the disparities among the 50 states in the frequency of painkiller prescriptions. Ten of the states with the highest prescribing rates are in the South.

Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers during 2012, which is enough for every adult American to have a bottle of pills, the agency notes.

On average, 46 Americans per day die from an overdose of prescription painkillers -– opioid or narcotic pain relievers, including drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone + acetaminophen), OxyContin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone.

The publication points out that more can be done at every level to prevent overprescribing while ensuring patients have access to safe and effective pain treatment. "Changes at the state level show particular promise," it says, noting that states can increase their use of prescription drug monitoring programs, which are state-run databases that track prescriptions for painkillers and can help to pinpoint instances of overprescribing.

An infographic about the scope of the problem and other resources are available here.

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