CDC study shows drop in opioid prescribing in US

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"The amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks", she said. "We don't want to forget these (numbers) are people's lives, and they affect communities and families and society as a whole". It also has a higher unemployment rate than the average in Virginia, and a relatively high rate of people on disability.

The state Department of Health reported in June there were more than 2,000 overdose deaths past year, which was a 66 percent increase from 2015, a record jump.

Despite the overall decline in prescribing of such drugs as oxycodone, Schuchat noted several worrisome trends. "The fewer we get started, the fewer we get addicted to opioids". Doctors and pharmacists will now be required to check the database prior to writing an opioid prescription to a patient. Authorities across the state and country have pushed for stricter standards to prescribe the often highly addictive drugs, which have spurred a widespread opioid addiction crisis. "What doesn't get measured doesn't get done".

It's an 18% drop from 2010 - the year the most prescriptions were written - when patients received about 782 milligrams, officials said. According to the CDC, overdoses, abuse, and dependence on medical narcotics has created an annual "economic burden" estimated at about $78.5 billion.

The number of prescriptions for opioids written by health care providers declined between 2012 and 2015, the government reported Thursday, introducing a glimmer of progress in efforts to quell the worst drug epidemic in USA history. Almost 13,000 more were killed by overdoses of heroin.

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With opioid prescriptions being so varied and widespread across the country, the CDC recommends health providers be more judicious in prescribing powerful painkillers. And although just less than 7% of all prescriptions exceed a month's dosage, using for 31 days or more increased the chances of long-term opioid use to 29.9%. "Even neighboring counties can have a major difference in prescribing levels". Customers of health insurer Cigna, for example, consumed nearly 12 percent fewer opioids in 2016, according to Will Lopez, senior medical director at Cigna Behavioral Health.

The wide variation in opioid prescribing patterns at the county level "suggests inconsistent practice patterns and a lack of consensus about appropriate opioid use [and] demonstrates the need for better application of guidance and standards around opioid prescribing practices", write the CDC researchers. For instance, health care providers in some counties in parts of Appalachia, the Southwest and New England prescribed the equivalent of 958 to 5,543 milligrams of morphine per capita two years ago. In other locations, prescribers authorized zero to 454 milligrams in the same year.

The opioid crisis also involves many heroin overdoses, including some among addicts who became addicted to heroin after first becoming addiction to painkillers prescribed by a doctor.

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.