Published: Sat, July 08, 2017
Medical | By Dorothy Lyons

Rural Counties Have Highest Opioid Prescription Levels In Oregon — CDC

Rural Counties Have Highest Opioid Prescription Levels In Oregon — CDC

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at every county in the country.

In 2012 for every 100 people, the number of opioids prescribed was a staggering 81.2.

In Cambria and Blair counties, doctors prescribed the equivalent of between 957 and 5,500 milligrams of morphine equivalents - including hydrocondone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine - for each resident in 2015, the CDC found.

From 2006 to 2010, daily MME per prescription remained steady, but then it decreased 17 percent from 2010 to 2015.

However, the average length of days for prescriptions increased. However, the number of prescriptions in 2015 was three times higher than in 1999 and four times higher than opioid prescription rates in Europe. They restricted it further with legislation this year that puts a five-day limit on prescriptions for minors.

The CDC said too many people are still being prescribed the highly addictive drugs and for too long. They calculated the opioid prescription burden using a measure called morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per person standardizing it across the different types and strengths of opioids that were used.

The issue has reached epidemic proportions.

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By 2015, doctors in the US weren't doling out as many opioids as they did in 2010, when more of the drugs were prescribed than at any other time in recent memory. Overdose deaths jumped 13 percent from 2013 to 2014 here.

Despite the focus on opioid addiction, some advocates say that the government isn't putting enough money behind the effort to prevent it.

The new CDC report also uncovered widely varying opioid prescribing patterns at the county level. "This variation highlights the need for healthcare providers to consider evidence-based guidance when prescribing opioids".

"In 2011 and 2012, OH and Kentucky, respectively, mandated that clinicians review Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data and implemented pain clinic regulation", the team noted. "These guidelines for responsible prescribing will help reduce the risk of opioid overuse that can lead to addiction and death in CT communities".

One weakness of the study, as Carr and the CDC researchers pointed out, was that it could not evaluate the reasons for prescriptions, and how often they were given for chronic pain versus acute or end-of-life pain. This trend is troubling, for research has shown that the risk of becoming addicted to prescription opioids increases with each day of use, starting as soon as the third day. That's concerning because the longer a person has access to the drugs, the greater their chances of becoming addicted, Schuchat says.

Another recommendation comes from Johns Hopkins Medicine: Avoid handwritten orders for painkillers.

Previous studies have shown that the Appalachian region has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic, but the new report from the CDC stresses "no part of the country is spared". Overall, the investigators found that 92% of handwritten prescriptions either failed to meet ideal practice standards, contained such errors as the absence of at least two patient identifiers or failed to comply with federal opioid prescription rules. "Prescription drug monitoring programs and working with doctors and doctor training - I mean these are all really good things".

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