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Painkillers Prescribed Too Frequently, CDC Reports

Update Date: Jul 02, 2014 09:11 AM EDT
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United States health officials are reporting that too many painkillers are being prescribed across the country. The officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that due to the spike in prescription opioids, there is a greater risk of drug abuse.

"The bottom line is we're not seeing consistent, effective, appropriate prescribing of painkillers across the nation, and this is a problem because of the deaths that result," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said at a news conference reported by WebMD.

In the report, the officials found that overall in 2012, health-care professionals wrote out 259 million prescriptions for painkillers. The data were collected from retail pharmacies.

"That's enough for every American adult to have their own bottle of pills," Frieden said according to CBS News.

States that had the highest rate of prescription narcotics were mainly in the South, which included Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia. In Alabama, the state with the highest rate, narcotics were prescribed three times more often than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest rate. When the officials looked at prescriptions for high-dose painkillers and long-acting/extended-release painkillers, they found that states in the Northeast, particularly Maine and New Hampshire, had high rates.

The officials stated that crackdowns on prescription drug use are effective. For example, in Florida, deaths tied to prescription drug use fell by 23 percent from 2010 to 2012 after state law enforcement effectively reduced the availability of these drugs. From 2003 to 2009, deaths tied to drug overdoses spiked by 61 percent. From 2010 to 2012, deaths from drug overdoses in general fell by 18 percent due to better programs within the state.

"Florida shows that policy and enforcement matter. When you take serious action, you get encouraging results," Frieden said.

The CDC stated that other states should start addressing the issues associated with prescription drug use and availability. The agency recommended states to tighten the regulations that exist for pain clinics while increasing people's access to programs that treat substance abuse. The CDC added that states could benefit from using prescription drug monitoring programs that can quickly identify the doctors and clinics that are overprescribing.

The report can be found here.

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