Tuesday, July 1, 2014

CDC Vital Signs: Opioid Panikiller Overdose in the United States

The CDC Vital Signs series, launched in 2010, addresses a single, important public health topic each month. This month’s edition presents our latest findings on opioid painkiller overdose in the United States. A surge in painkiller prescribing is a key driver of the increase in prescription overdoses. This Vital Signs highlights significant state-to-state variation in prescribing and provides promising strategies for addressing the issue.

Copies of Vital Signs materials, including the Vital Signs Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) articles Variation Among States in Prescribing of Opioid Pain Relievers and Benzodiazepines and Decline in Drug Overdose After State Policy Changes, are included with the release of this report as well as a four-page consumer fact sheet.

Key points in the Vital Signs report include:
  • Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012. This is enough for every American adult to have their own bottle of pills.
  • These prescriptions were distributed unevenly throughout the United States—health care providers in the highest prescribing state wrote almost three times as many opioid painkiller prescriptions per person as those in the lowest prescribing state.
  • Southern states, especially Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia, had the most painkiller prescriptions per person.
Visit the Vital Signs Web page to find the Vital Signs MMWR articles, fact sheet, and other materials. Take advantage of CDC’s social media tools, such as the Vital Signs buttons and email updates. We also invite you to join us for the Vital Signs Town Hall Teleconference on July 8 at 2pm (EDT).

Vital Signs is not just about data, it is about action. The variation in prescribing between states shows that we can reduce the risk of overdose while making sure all patients in all states have access to safe, effective pain treatment.

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