Opioid perscriptions have dropped by double digits, CDC says

In a new report the CDC says U.S. doctors are prescribing fewer opioids than they were in 2010 but that overall rates remain high

However, prescribing practices are widely inconsistent and patients receive different care depending on where they live.

That contrast underlines the dramatic differences in opioid prescribing across the country as health officials try to tackle a national epidemic.

The CDC report is the first to provide a per-county breakdown of opioid prescriptions across the country, sorting counties according to average amount of opioid prescription per person.

Since 2015 - the previous year the CDC had data for - the agency and hospitals around the country have launched initiatives to rein in opioid prescribing.

Larger jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and counties such as Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's, with far lower amounts prescribed per person, also saw drops in opioid prescribing but by more modest levels.

Daily MME per prescription remained stable from 2006 to 2010 and then decreased 17% from 2010 to 2015 (from 58 MME to 48). However, the average days' supply per prescription increased from 13 days in 2006 to nearly 18 days in 2015.

Nationally, some numbers are encouraging: The CDC found prescription numbers peaked in 2010 and decreased each year since. These put more people at risk for addiction and overdose.

People were also being prescribed the drugs for longer periods of time at higher dosages, giving patients more of a chance to become addicted.

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Enough opioids were prescribed in 2015 to medicate every American for three weeks straight. Over the last few years, the overdose death rate from illegal drugs, such as fentanyl and heroin, has risen faster than the rate of overdoses from medical narcotics.

Massuli and Ken Collins, Cecil's director for addiction services, said they have engaged everyone from doctors and patients to recovering addicts and law enforcement to stem opioid addiction. But too many patients are still getting the addictive drugs so says a new report for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the sheer volume of opioids prescribed that year was still three times higher than in 1999, according to new government data.

"Opioid prescribing varies from place to place as much as the weather", Schuchat said. Of those opioid-related deaths, around 15,000 (about half) involved a prescription opioid. The cumbersome CDC process of collecting data from states and counties is inefficient, he said.

The report also includes a call to action to help end the opioid epidemic and to ensure access to safer, more effective pain treatment. 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.

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

Gary Mendell, founder of the anti-drug advocacy group Shatterproof, said in a statement that while the CDC's numbers are a good start, real accountability in measuring opioid prescriptions comes with making those numbers transparent. 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.

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