A new report from the CDC measured prescription painkiller use across the country:
Southern states — particularly Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia — had the most painkiller prescriptions per person, the report said. For example, in Alabama, there were 143 prescriptions for opioid prescriptions written for every 100 people. That’s about three times the rate seen in Hawaii, which had the lowest rate among U.S. states, with 52 prescriptions per 100 people.
The rate of prescriptions for oxymorphone, one type of opioid painkiller, was about 22 times higher in Tennessee than in Minnesota, which had the lowest rate of prescriptions for that drug, the report said. Prescription rates for long-acting/extended-release painkillers, and for high-dose painkillers, were the highest in the Northeast, particularly in Maine and New Hampshire, the report said.
Such wide variations in prescriptions for painkillers cannot be explained by differences in the health of people in different states — that is, pain-related health issues don’t vary much by region, the CDC said. Rather, the differences may indicate a lack of consensus about when it is appropriate to prescribe painkillers, the report said.