What states need to know about the epidemic

According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), from 1999 to 2013, the amount of painkillers, called opioids, prescribed and sole in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled, and overdose deaths have quadrupled in lock-step.  There is wide variation in opioid prescribing between states, said the CDC, and  the differences in health issues among states that cause people pain cannot be explained.

To help prevent prescription drug overdose, states can advance the promising strategies below to ensure the health and well-being of their residents.

  1. Consider ways to increase use of prescription drug monitoring programs, which are state-run databases that track prescriptions for controlled substances and can help improve painkiller prescribing, inform clinical practices and protect patients at risk.
  2. Consider policy options relating to pain clinics to reduce prescribing practices that are risky to patients.
  3. Evaluate state data and programs and consider ways to assess Medicaid, worker’s compensation programs, and state-run health plans to detect and address inappropriate prescribing of painkillers.
  4. Identify opportunities to increase access to substance abuse treatment and consider expanding first responder access to naloxone, a drug used when people overdose.
  5. Implement and promote evidence-based opioid prescribing standards.