CDC's Call to Action on Prescription Opioid Drugs

Prescription pain medications can have a useful purpose, but there are dangers to opioid drugs and how they are prescribed. And there are some significant differences in health care provider prescription practices in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some disturbing facts to consider:

  • Each day nearly 50 people die from an overdose of prescription pain killers in the United States; 
  • In one year, health care providers wrote enough prescriptions for each American adult to have a bottle of pills;
  • A three-fold difference exists among states in the number of opioid prescriptions written per 100,000 persons;
  • Ten of the highest prescribing states for painkillers are in the South.

These findings from CDC were published in the agency’s latest issue of Vital Signs, and they highlight some alarming trends related to prescription pain medications.

Vital SignsCDC not only researches, documents and highlights important public health issues but also works to offer solutions to both simple and complex issues. Among the agency’s suggestions are to

  • Increase prescription drug monitoring efforts;
  • Have real-time data available to the states;
  • Consider policies related to for-profit pain clinics to reduce prescribing practices risky to patients.

Learn more about this important issue and some effective responses to it by visiting CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports.


Pierce Nelson is the vice president for communications for the CDC Foundation.