CDC Vital Signs: Opioid Prescribing: Where You Live Matters
The amount of opioids prescribed in the US peaked in 2010 and then decreased each year through 2015. However, prescribing remains high and vary widely from county to county. Healthcare providers began using opioids in the late 1990s to treat chronic pain (not related to cancer), such as arthritis and back pain. As this continued, more opioid prescriptions were written, for more days per prescription, in higher doses. Taking opioids for longer periods of time or in higher doses increases the risk of addiction, overdose, and death. In 2015, six times more opioids per resident were dispensed in the highest-prescribing counties than in the lowest-prescribing counties. County-level characteristics, such as rural versus urban, income level, and demographics, only explained about a third of the differences. This suggests that people receive different care depending on where they live. Healthcare providers have an important role in offering safer and more effective pain treatment.