A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a small number of doctors were responsible for prescribing the most narcotic painkiller prescriptions (Rx) in the U.S., HealthDay reports.
The CDC researchers analyzed 2013 data from prescription drug-monitoring programs in eight states including California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio and West Virginia, which represent about one-quarter of the U.S. population.
The data found that a small number of doctors were heavy prescribers of Rx pain medications. In all eight states narcotic painkillers were prescribed twice as often as stimulants or tranquilizers/sedatives, such as Ativan or Xanax, according to the report.
The new report also confirmed that prescribing practices varied widely among states, even though the conditions these drugs are meant to treat occur at similar rates. Doctors in some states prescribed roughly twice as many narcotic painkillers and tranquilizer/sedatives as doctors elsewhere.
Stimulants, which include Adderall and Ritalin, were prescribed four times more often in certain states than others.
Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Most of those deaths stem from abuse of prescription pain drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin, stimulants and sedatives/tranquilizers, according to the CDC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will spend $20 million in 16 states to reduce opioid overdoses.
Opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. In 2013, more than 16,000 people died of prescription opioid overdoses in the United States, according to the CDC. In addition, more than 8,000 people died of heroin overdoses that year. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled.
“The prescription drug overdose epidemic is tragic and costly, but can be reversed,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a news release. “Because we can protect people from becoming addicted to opioids, we must take fast action now, with real-time tracking programs, safer prescribing practices, and rapid response. Reversing this epidemic will require programs in all 50 states.”