HealthDay News — Physicians in Alabama — the state with the highest number of opioid painkiller prescriptions — issued nearly three times as many of those prescriptions as doctors in Hawaii — the lowest prescribing state, according to CDC researchers.

Overall, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for these medications in 2012, based on prescription data gathered from retail pharmacies by a commercial vendor, the agency reported.

The CDC analysis of prescription trends also found that 10 of the highest prescribing states for opioid painkillers are in the South, with Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia leading the nation. The Northeast, especially Maine and New Hampshire, had the most prescriptions per person for long-acting/extended-release painkillers and for high-dose painkillers.

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Prescriptions for oxymorphone varied the most between states, out of all narcotic medications. Nearly 22 times as many prescriptions were written for oxymorphone in Tennessee as were written in Minnesota.

But, the CDC analysis also found that states that crack down on narcotic painkiller prescriptions can dramatically limit the number of overdose deaths. The CDC pointed to Florida as a major success story.

“The bottom line is we’re not seeing consistent, effective, appropriate prescribing of painkillers across the nation, and this is a problem because of the deaths that result,” CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, said at a news conference.



  1. Frieden T, Khan MF, Janina Kean J. July 1, 2014, news conference. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.