The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

July 1, 2014

Oklahoma ranks in top 5 for painkiller overdoses

OKLA. CITY — Ten of the highest prescribing states for prescription painkillers are in the south and Oklahoma is one of the five highest, according to a new Centers for Disease Control report.

Oklahoma, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky are the five-highest prescribing states for prescription painkillers in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control report Vital Signs: Opioid Painkiller Prescribing released today.

The report also found that each day 46 Americans die from an overdose of prescription painkillers and health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

“Prescription drug overdose is epidemic in the United States,” said CDC Director Tom Friedon, M.D. “Overdose rates are higher where these drugs are prescribed more frequently. States and practices where prescribing rates are highest need to take a particuarly hard look at ways to reduce the inappropriate prescription of these dangerous drugs.”

Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention Medical Epidemiologist Leonard Paulozzi, M.D., said at the state level change shows the greatest promise. States can consider working to increase the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and make statewide changes relating to pain clinics, Paulozzi said.

“Together we can reduce the risk of overdose while making sure all patients in all states have access to safe, effective pain treatment,” he said.

What might be causing the epidemic?

According to the CDC, healthcare providers in different parts of the country don’t agree on when to use prescription painkillers and how much to prescribe.

Some of the increased demand is from people who use them nonmedically — using drugs without a prescription or just for the high they cause — sell them or get them from multiple prescribers at the same time.

Also, according to the CDC, many states report problems with for-profit, high-volume pain clinics (so-called “pill mills”) that prescribe large quantities of painkillers to people who don’t need them medically.

Local steps already taken include establishing a prescription monitoring program through the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. In Jan. 1, 2012, medication dispensers were required to report the dispensing of scheduled narcotics within 5 minutes of being delivered to a customer.

Also, in 2010, the OBN announced the creation of a statewide prescription take-back program, which involved the placement of drug drop-off locations including the Edmond Police Department lobby. As of May 2012, 8 tons of drugs had been dropped off across the state.

Last year, Oklahoma decision-makers published a state plan aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse.

In the plan, Gov. Mary Fallin stated that the pattern of drug overdose deaths here has changed considerably during the past 40 years. Prescription painkillers are now the most commonly involved drugs in unintentional overdose deaths, she stated.

In 2010, 662 Oklahomans died from unintentional overdoses compared to 127 in 1999. The majority of the additional deaths were due to unintentional prescription drug overdoses.

Additionally, per capita, Oklahoma is one of the leading states in prescription painkiller sales. In 2009, the state had the highest prevalence of prescription painkiller abuse for the age 12-and-older group, the plan stated.

One in 12 Oklahomans abuse painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Prescription opioid painkillers are four of the top five medications responsible for unintentional overdose deaths, the plan stated.

Fallin stated the Oklahoma plan closely follows a national plan, and identifies specific recommendations for action.

The plan calls upon state and community level and tribal stakeholders to lead successful efforts to reduce the number of drug-related overdose deaths, prevent abuse and diversion and better assist those seeking to end their addiction to prescription drugs.

The plan stated that many people are still unaware that the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs can be as dangerous as the use of illegal drugs, leading to addiction and even death.

State action items included a statewide media campaign on the epidemic of prescription drug-related deaths, promoting the 211 information helpline to increase referrals for opioid addiction treatment, public education about proper storage and disposal methods and encouraging communities, campuses and businesses to address prescription drug abuse in their criteria. | 341-2121, ext. 108


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