Big inconsistencies in the amount of powerful painkillers prescribed from state to state are worrying officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a recent study, the CDC reported, "Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills."
The report pointed out doctors in Southern states prescribed more painkillers than other states. Alabama and Tennessee saw the most prescriptions: 143 for every 100 people in the state.
Health officials are worried because an increase in painkiller prescribing is a key driver of the increase in prescription overdoses.
In fact, NPR reports more people in the U.S. die from prescription drug overdoses each year than in car crashes.
USA Today points out doctors in Hawaii, the state with the fewest prescriptions, wrote 52 for every 100 people — a little more than a third of the states with the highest rates.
So where can the CDC go from here? Officials point to Florida as a possible example to follow.
The New York Times reports Florida started making legal and regulatory reforms back in 2010 to curb deaths from prescription drug overdose. And the CDC says the reforms worked, as deaths from overdose fell by 23 percent over the following two years.
The drug that varied the most from state to state was oxymorphone, prescribed 22 times as much in Tennessee as in Minnesota. (Via Flickr / e-Magine Art)
The CDC issued a list of recommendations to reduce irregularities, including monitoring patients who might be abusing prescription drugs and screening patients for mental health problems.