Nevada Loves the Vicodin, Delaware Prefers OxyContin

Jul 09 2008 Published by under Drug Abuse Science, Opiates

Recreational use and abuse of prescription narcotics has received much attention in recent years, from the 2003 revelation that Rush Limbaugh was abusing OxyContin to the multi-drug overdose of Heath Ledger. If you do a little searching you will no doubt run across some descriptions of prescription narcotic abuse as growing and alarming trends. Kevin Z of Deep Sea News and The Other 95% pointed me to a handy little tool to take a look at a couple of aspects of these trends.


The Las Vegas Sun has put together an interactive map of the US which depicts state-by-state rates of consumption of the prescription narcotics hydocodone, oxycodone, methadone, morphine, codeine, fentanyl and meperidine. It covers the years from 1997-2006 so one can examine trends for each compound over time- mostly the trends are for increasing consumption.
As a brief flavor, the top states in per-capita consumption of hydrocodone in 2006 were Nevada, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama; For oxycodone the 2006 top consuming states were Delaware, Florida, Tennessee, Nevada and Maine.
Delaware? Why Delaware? And why does Maine show such high rates of use for so many narcotics?
The regional selectivity (southeastern states) of meperidine (Demerol) use is quite fascinating.

13 responses so far

  • juniorprof says:

    I wonder how much of this is related to preferences of docs at particular medical schools for writing scrips for one narcotic over another. As demands for medical school entrance have gone up along with demands for more docs in a variety of areas with growing populations some of these state institutions have limited entrance to in-state applicants therefore making the spread of trends in education and training more limited in their geographical spread.
    Another thing I wonder about is whether regional differences in % coverage by insurance agencies make a large difference in which narcotics get prescribed in places like ERs.
    Either way, its fairly alarming to see across the board increases of at least 200% for nearly every compound from 1997 - 2006 in nearly every state.

  • Caitriona says:

    Fascinating tool!
    Number one in 2006 is Tennessee??
    Why? (I didn't do it, I don't live there I swear ;-))

  • bsci says:

    I wonder if insurance also has a role. While most companies are national, there are state-by-state variations on insurance. Perhaps the ease of paperwork or reimbursement to doctors for certain drugs in certain states is different.

  • Ack says:

    Tennessee is a top-level user for five of the seven listed. What the hell is wrong with Tennessee, and why does this stay completely out of the news? Is it coal miners out of work and out of hope?

  • Lou says:

    I was looking at meperidine year-by-year and noticed a general trend that usage is becoming more concentrated towards the SE states. It's a gradual but clear trend - any ideas?
    One idea I had was that the drug was being superceded by others, and other states have switched to the newer version. But then why are those states continuing to use it??
    Interesting link, DM!

  • kevin z says:

    I thought you would like it. What I was impressed with was the slider tool to see how much usage has increased nationally between 1997 and 2006. In my state of PA, there was 12 doses per person of oxycontin used in 2006...

  • bayman says:

    Does this include black market consumption???

  • bayman says:

    ok looks like no...thought it might have to do with trafficking rings...

  • bayman says:

    Then again, I've heard reports of prolific physician prescriber/black market distributors of oxycontin operating on the Eastern seaboard. Which could in theory, if prolific enough, contribute to these trends.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I was unable to determine whether the data included prescription use, illicit use or the sum. In the absence of specifics I was assuming the total of licit and illicit use.

  • Ian says:

    "And why does Maine show such high rates of use for so many narcotics?"
    It gives a whole new meaning to Maine-lining, doesn't it?!

  • bayman says:

    "And why does Maine show such high rates of use for so many narcotics?"
    It gives a whole new meaning to Maine-lining, doesn't it?!"

    "Blame Canada!!!"
    We are a bunch of bootleggahs...didn't 'cha know??

  • Marj says:

    Delaware has alot of seniors. People move there when they retire for the low taxes. Many older people use painkillers; some of them pop them like lifesavers. Note that Florida, another favorite place of retirees, is also an oxy state.

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