Prescription painkillers are among the most commonly abused substances in the nation. Though these medications are meant to treat moderate to severe pain, they also create a sense of euphoria that can quickly become addictive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 46 people in the United States die from prescription painkiller overdoses every day. When it comes to your likelihood of overdosing on these opiate pain medications, however, it likely depends on where you live.
A Growing Problem
In 2012, physicians wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications. That’s enough to give one bottle of pills to every single adult in the United States. A new report shows that prescription rates for drugs such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin vary widely by state and, consequently, so do the associated overdose rates.
States with the highest number of opiate prescriptions – and subsequent overdose rates – were as follows (in ranking order):
- West Virginia
In stark contrast, Oregon has seen huge spikes in opiate overdoses. In 2012, 164 Oregonians died from unintentional and undetermined prescription opioid overdose, four times the rate from 2000, according to Oregon Health Authority. Overdose and prescription rates were also down in Rhode Island, California, and New York.
Does Legislation Really Work?
When states take action, overdose rates can fall. Proof of this can be seen in a recent report out of Florida. Between 2003 and 2009, Florida experienced skyrocketing drug overdose rates, thanks to unregulated "pill mills" populating the area. After passing new laws to regulate pain clinics and a new prescription monitoring program, opioid overdose deaths fell 27 percent between 2010 and 2012. Deaths from oxycodone alone fell 52.1 percent.
The Opiate Antidote
Narcan, known as the opiate antidote, is an injectable medication that reverses the effects of opiates. With an opiate epidemic at hand, many law enforcement agencies are providing their officers with Narcan emergency kits. The results have been both impressive and life-saving.
In Rhode Island, for example, 33 people overdosed in the month of January alone, leaving the state poised to surpass the record overdose numbers of 2012. Narcan kits, which were supplied to RI officers earlier this year, have altered that deadly path. In May, the number of fatal overdoses dropped to 10 - the lowest monthly total the state has recorded in four years.
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