Treatment of severe pain may not depend on how badly you feel, but where you live. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control finds prescription rates for opioid painkillers like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone vary widely from state to state. Most states with the highest prescription rates are in the South, with Alabama topping the list. Providers in that state wrote 143 prescriptions for every 100 residents, while providers in Hawaii, the state with the lowest rate, wrote 52 for every 100 people, nearly three times fewer. Other states with very high rates include Tennessee and West Virginia; states with low rates include California and New York.
Experts say it’s not that people living in southern states are in more pain than others. The South has the highest rates of antibiotic prescriptions as well.
U.S. health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012, enough to give a bottle of the pills to every adult in the country. The report, published on Tuesday shows prescribing rates vary widely by state for drugs best known by brand names such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin.
“Clearly there’s a disagreement or a lack of consensus among providers across the country as to when to prescribe this type of drug,” says the CDC’s Dr. Len Paulozzi.
The problem is there is also a link between the number of prescriptions written and overdoses.
Florida is touted as a success story, slashing the number of overdose deaths in half within two years of legislative action against pill mills. The state regulated pain clinics and stopped doctors from dispensing prescription painkillers from their offices.