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CDC – Opioid Prescribing is Still High and Varies Widely throughout the U.S.

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CDC – Opioid Prescribing is Still High and Varies Widely throughout the U.S.

Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain. An estimated 20% of patients presenting to physician offices with noncancer pain symptoms or pain-related diagnoses (including acute and chronic pain) receive an opioid prescription

The amount of opioids prescribed in the United States peaked in 2010 and then decreased each year through 2015, but remains at high levels and varies from county to county in the U.S., according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC this wide variation suggests inconsistent prescribing practices among healthcare providers and that patients receive different care depending on where they live.

Half of U.S. counties had a decrease in the amount of opioids prescribed per person from 2010 to 2015; however the amount of opioids prescribed per person in 2015 was about 3 times as high as in 1999.

Here are just a few staggering facts for the year 2015:

  • The amount of opioids prescribed was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three (3) weeks!
  • Drug overdoses accounted for 52,404 deaths in the United States, 63.1% of which involved an opioid.
  • Among opioid-related deaths, approximately 15,000 (approximately half) involved a prescription opioid. In addition, an estimated 2.0 million persons in the United States had opioid use disorder (addiction) associated with prescription opioids in 2015
  • The economic burden of prescription opioid overdose, abuse, and dependence is estimated to be $78.5 billion each year in the United States

Healthcare providers have an important role in offering safer and more effective pain treatments.  The CDC suggests healthcare providers:

  • Follow the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain which includes the following information:
    • Prescribe opioids only when the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks
    • Start with the lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids.
    • For acute pain, prescribe only the number of days that the pain is expected to be severe enough to require opioids.
    • Reassess benefits and risks if considering dose increases.
  • Use state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) which help identify patients at risk of addiction or overdose.

Free Continuing Education (CE) on Opioid Prescribing (MMWR/Medscape) is now available.

See MCN Healthcare’s Blog – New on the Streets: Drug for Nerve Pain Boosts High for Opioid Abusers (Gabapentin [Neurontin])


Rudd RA, Seth P, David F, Scholl L. Increases in drug and opioid-involved overdose deaths—United States, 2010-2015. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2016;65:1445–52. CrossRef PubMed

CDC. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2017.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Prescription drug use and misuse in the United States: results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2016.


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