Opioid Abuse: Does Where You Live Make a Difference?

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At The River Source, it is our purpose to not just help people recover from addiction but also educate them on the risk factors for using drugs and alcohol. We hope that if more people understand what factors can lead them down this path, they can better protect themselves from relapse, or from getting involved with drugs in the first place.

When we came across a very interesting article from the CDC regarding opioid painkiller abuse and location, we knew that we had to share this with our readers. With all the factors that put people at risk for addiction, could where we live really make that much of a difference? It turns out that it can.

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Southern States are Hardest Hit

Did you know that most of the highest prescribing states for painkillers are in the South?

This is interesting considering that the types of health issues that cause pain don’t vary from state to state. What we’re seeing is that how healthcare providers practice and fill prescriptions is influenced by where they live.

The states that have the highest number of painkiller prescriptions per 100 people, according to data from the CDC, are:

  • Oklahoma
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • Indiana
  • Michigan

States are Making a Difference

What we were surprised to see was that Florida did not make the list. Florida is the state that is commonly discussed with the opioid drug problem because of the emergence of pill mills several years back. However, actions that took place in 2010 and beyond have been successful, and this shows that states can make a difference.

  • In 2010, Florida regulated pain clinics and prevented healthcare providers from dispensing prescriptions from their offices. Two years later, the state saw a 50 percent decrease in overdose deaths from oxycodone.
  • In 2012, New York required prescribers to check the database before prescribing painkillers. By 2013, the state saw a 75 percent drop in patients who were seeing multiple prescribers.
  • In 2012, Tennessee required prescribers to check the database as well. Though the state still has a high opioid drug problem, their efforts are paying off. A year later, the state saw a 36 percent drop in patients seeing multiple prescribers.

What States Can Do

As you can see, location does play a role in the onset of prescription painkiller use. But it’s wonderful to see that states can make a difference in curbing these numbers. We can learn from other states what needs to be done on a mass scale, including:

  • Drug monitoring programs
  • Laws and regulations for pain clinics
  • Evaluating data to identify inappropriate prescribing of painkillers
  • Increased access to substance abuse treatment

For more information about the opioid painkiller problem in the United States, visit CDC.gov.

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