The data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2015, the highest prescribing counties doled out six times more opioids than the counties with the lowest prescription rates.
"The amount of opioids prescribed in the U.S.is still too high, with too many opioid prescriptions for too many days at too high a dosage", said Anne Schuchat, M.D., acting director of the CDC, in a press statement.
Schuchat says opioid use today is still three times what it was in 1999 and four times what it is in Europe.
In the current study, the CDC investigated retail prescription data for the period from 2006 to 2015.
One positive note for Oklahoma was that 32 of the state's 77 counties saw decreases in the number of opioids prescribed from 2010 to 2015. For instance, health care providers in some counties in parts of Appalachia, the Southwest and New England prescribed the equivalent of 958 to 5,543 milligrams of morphine per capita two years ago. However, the average days' supply per prescription increased from 13 days in 2006 to nearly 18 days in 2015.
The CDC found opioid prescribing in 2015 is still three times higher than medications prescribed in 1999 enough for every American to be on opioid medications around the clock for three weeks.
"That's a lot of opioid use", she says.
Also by July 1, all doctors and prescribers were required to sign up for the state prescription drug-monitoring program aimed at stemming "doctor shopping" in which patients visit multiple doctors seeking prescriptions.
The overprescribing of legal opioids sparked the addiction crisis, but some addicts eventually move to cheaper or stronger drugs, especially if they run into difficulty obtaining prescription opioids. The county also has the seventh highest rate of opioid overdose deaths, state Health Department data shows. Customers of Cigna Health Insurance, for instance, have consumed almost 12 percent fewer opioids in the past year, according to Will Lopez, senior medical director of Cigna Behavioral Health.
The Republican healthcare bill adds $45 billion for states to spend on opioid addiction treatment, but addiction specialists told The New York Times it isn't enough to make up for the proposed cuts to Medicaid, which provides treatment for hundreds of thousands of people. Based on its analysis, the CDC says more than 2 million Americans who consumed prescription opioids had an opioid use disorder.
However, in 2009, the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine released guidelines aimed at reducing prescribing habits by care providers.
Regulation has also helped, the CDC team said.
The Daily News in May chronicled the devastating effects the opioid crisis is having on Staten Island and the Bronx. The latest numbers from the CDC find that the number of overdoses due to heroin and illicit synthetics are on the rise.
That contrast underlines the dramatic differences in opioid prescribing across the country as health officials try to tackle a national epidemic.
"In addition, persons in rural areas might travel to micropolitan areas, which often serve as an anchor community for a much larger rural region, to receive medical care and pick up medications".