National Safety Council Statement on CDC Vital Signs Report Showing Drops in Opioid Prescribing

While prescriptions decreased nationwide, the Council is concerned with county-level patchwork of prescribing practices.

Itasca, IL – The National Safety Council applauds the new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that details opioid prescribing practices in America. While the Council is pleased to see another drop in overall opioid prescriptions nationwide, NSC is troubled by the dramatic prescribing inconsistencies from county to county. The CDC opioid prescribing guideline for treating chronic pain gives prescribers a recommended course of action. If prescribers adhere to this guideline, we may be able to eliminate the county-by-county variations highlighted in the report. Where one lives should not determine one's risk of addiction.

The CDC guideline also encourages ongoing prescriber education, which is critical. A National Safety Council survey found 74 percent of doctors incorrectly believe morphine and oxycodone, both opioids, are the most effective ways to treat pain. In fact, research shows a combination of over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen offer the most effective relief for acute pain. Additionally, the National Safety Council State of Safety Report assigned 18 states an "Off Track" rating for how well they address poisonings, including opioid misuse. Most states that missed the mark are lacking some form of mandatory prescriber education.

Our nation is in the midst of the worst drug crisis in recorded history. Sixty people die every day because of opioid overdoses, and many of these dependencies started in doctors' offices. A decrease in overall prescribing may seem to signal a cultural shift toward more effective and less addictive pain treatment. Vast differences between counties, however, show how little progress we truly have made. We need a gold standard of care – not a geographical standard.

About the National Safety Council

Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council, nsc.org, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact – distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety, prescription drug overdoses and Safe Communities.

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