Friday, April 06, 2012
Painkiller abuse rises most in Appalachia, Southwest
There's been a "dramatic rise" in the distribution of hydrocodone and oxycodone, the nation's two most popular prescription drugs, from 2000 to 2010, according to Drug Enforcement Agency data. Chris Hawley of Bloomberg Businessweek reports hydrocodone distribution has risen most in Appalachia and the Midwest, and oxycodone distribution rose most on Staten Island and in the West.
Increases parallel a rise in overdose deaths, pharmacy robberies and other drug-related crime across the country. Pharmacies dispensed the equivalent of 69 tons of pure oxycodone in 2010. Opioid painkillers, including hydrocodone and oxycodone, caused more than 14,000 deaths in 2008, and the Centers for Disease Control reports the death toll continues to rise. Prescription-drug overdose deaths now outnumber deaths from car accidents.
The increase is partly due to doctors prescribing more painkillers to aging baby boomers, Hawley reports. It's also driven by addiction and "doctor shopping." Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids President Pete Jackson said the addiction problem has roots in Appalachia and affluent suburbs, and spreads out from those two areas. Some areas with military bases or Veterans Affairs hospitals have seen large increases in painkiller use, Hawley reports. In 2010, per-capita oxycodone sales increased five to six-fold in most of Tennessee. Sales also engulfed much of Kentucky, with high rates of sales stretching north to Columbus, Ohio and south to Macon, Ga.
The Southwest is another "hot spot," Hawley reports. Per capita sales of oxycodone rose 10-fold and hydrocodone sales rose five-fold in New Mexico. The state had the highest rate of opioid overdoses in 2008, at 27 per 100,000 people. Hawley reports areas with large Native American reservations saw increases of painkiller abuse, including South Dakota, northeastern Arizona, northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. (Read more)