- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The frequency of opioid painkiller prescriptions varies from region to region around the U.S., a puzzling pattern that could be contributing to more overdose deaths in areas with an unusually high rate of scripts, according to government researchers.

The Centers for Disease Control said this week that health issues in specific pockets of the country don’t vary enough to explain why, in 2012, providers in the highest-prescribing states wrote almost three times as many painkiller prescriptions as the lowest prescribing state, or why U.S. doctors were twice as likely as Canadian ones to to prescribe the opioids such as OxyContin or Vicodin.

Among the CDC’s findings: Each day, 46 people die from overdosing on prescription painkillers; care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for the painkillers in 2012, or enough for each American adult to have a bottle of pills; and 10 of the highest prescribing states for painkillers were in the South.

Painkiller abuse has been a hot-button topic for years, but more state officials and members of Congress are increasingly likely to label opioid or heroin addiction as a national or regional crisis.

“More can be done at every level to prevent overprescribing while ensuring patients’ access to safe, effective pain treatment,” the CDC said, pointing to state-level programs that use real-time tracking of painkiller scripts.