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Oklahoma ranks No. 5 in rate of painkillers prescribed

Oklahoma ranks No. 5 in the nation for the rate that physicians prescribe several powerful painkillers to residents, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: July 1, 2014 at 10:20 pm •  Published: July 1, 2014

Oklahoma physicians write enough prescriptions for powerful painkillers to fill a bottle of pills for every man, woman and child in the state — and then some.

A report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Oklahoma doctors wrote almost 128 opioid pain reliever prescriptions per 100 people in the state.

Oklahoma ranked No. 5 in the nation for highest rates of prescribed hydrocodone, oxycodone and other powerful painkillers to residents, according to the report.

Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday that many factors are at play for why these drugs are prescribed differently from state to state.

“We don’t think it’s because people in some states have substantially more pain than some people in other states,” Frieden said.

State health Commissioner Terry Cline agreed.

“Unless you believe that Oklahoma has more people in pain or has a sicker population, there is only one explanation for why we have such a high prescribing rate, and that is we have physicians who are writing way too many scripts,” Cline said. “That’s the bottom line.”

More on Oklahoma's struggle with prescription pill addiction:

Addicted Oklahoma: Problem prescribers fuel deadly epidemic

Ten of the highest-prescribing states for painkillers were in the South. Only Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky saw higher rates than Oklahoma of opioid pain relievers prescribed to their residents.

Overprescribing opioid pain relievers, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and tramadol, can result in several adverse health outcomes, including fatal overdoses.

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