Opioid Prescribing Remains High Nationally — CDC

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that the number of prescriptions written by health-care providers dropped between 2012 and 2015.

But "the bottom line remains: "We still have too many people getting opiois prescriptions for too many days and too high a dose", she said".

The measurement was based on morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) to take into account that the drugs come in various types as well as dosages.

CDC said higher amounts of opioids were prescribed in counties with a greater percentage of non-Hispanic white residents, a greater prevalence of diabetes and arthritis, micropolitan areas (non-metro small cities and big towns), and higher unemployment. Half of those deaths involved prescription narcotics.

Since 2015 - the past year the CDC had data for - the agency and hospitals around the country have launched initiatives to rein in opioid prescribing. The information from the report can be used to help prevent addiction before it starts. That's a drop of 18 percent. "It's a very important piece of the puzzle", Schuchat said. Overdose deaths jumped 13 percent from 2013 to 2014 here.

A four-fold increase in opioid use from 1999 to 2015 is mostly attributed to doctors prescribing them for non-debilitating and short-term pain.

"Opioid prescribing varies from place to place as much as the weather", Schuchat said. We all experience them.

If the pain is going to last only a week or two, he said, try over-the-counter pain relievers.

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.

The CDC recommended states and counties to use the opioid prescribing trends to make addiction treatment more available.

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.

Previous reports have shown that rural areas have been particularly hard-hit, but that is not captured in this report. In 2015, six times more opioids per resident were dispensed in the highest-prescribing counties than in the lowest-prescribing ones.

But there are some places that seem to be succeeding. When they do prescribe opioids, the CDC wants doctors to consider the risks of addiction, lower doses and shorter durations. The average daily morphine-equivalent dose per prescription has declined each year since 2006. Customers of Cigna Health Insurance, for instance, have consumed almost 12 percent fewer opioids in the past year, according to Will Lopez, senior medical director of Cigna Behavioral Health. "These guidelines for responsible prescribing will help reduce the risk of opioid overuse that can lead to addiction and death in CT communities".

Those strategies include implementing opioid prescribing guidelines for physicians, which largely match the CDC's opioid prescribing guidelines.

There are also indications that prescriptions for opioids have been dropping since 2015.

However, in 2009, the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine released guidelines aimed at reducing prescribing habits by care providers.

Noting the growing issue of prescription opioids, CT hospital emergency departments in 2015 voluntarily agreed to adopt prescribing guidelines.

Regulation has also helped, the CDC team said. This year, New Jersey became the strictest, limiting painkiller prescriptions to just five days.

And when prescriptions end, some people move on to stronger illegal drugs.

A few counties - including Huntingdon County - saw increases in prescription rates during the period. "We're still seeing too many people get too much for too long".