Key findings:

    • Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey highest overdose rates with lowest prescriptions.
    • Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama highest prescribes with lowest overdoses.
    • Inverse trends show states with high overdose rates have low prescription rates and vice-versa.
    • Opioid overdoses costing national healthcare system $11 billion annually.
    • Opioid prescription rates down from 81.3 per 100 Americans in 2012 to 58.5 in 2017.

At the root of the opioid crisis in America, prescription practices play a major role in the millions addicted to opioids. Big pharma companies like Purdue Pharma receive much of the blame for sparking the opioid crisis. Leading many to view the prescription practices as the root cause. At its peak in 2012, 81 opioid prescriptions were written for every 100 Americans. While that figure has declined, still 58 opioid prescriptions are written for every 100 Americans in 2017. Less prescriptions and lower dosages are a step in the right direction to reduce addiction rates. Yet addiction and overdoses are on the rise.

Overdoses are costly not just on overdose patients, but on a large portion of healthcare costs. A study by Premier found an estimated $11.3 billion in healthcare costs due to overdoses. These costs can be more significant for health insurance providers and regions with high addiction rates. We here at QuoteWizard set out to see where overdose rates are highest and most costly to determine if opioid prescription rates have a strong correlation. We analyzed CDC overdose and opioid prescription rates to see which states had the highest rates of overdose and prescription opioids.

Common knowledge would expect to see a strong correlation in prescription rates where overdoses are most common. However, what we found was quite the opposite. When comparing overdose to prescription rates we found an inverse correlation in the data. States with a high rate of opioid prescription tended to have a low rate of overdoses. Similarly, states with low prescription rates tended to have a high rate of overdoses.

To highlight the inverse correlation, we ranked all 50 states in each category of prescriptions and overdoses. Then compared a ranking differential between prescriptions and overdoses to show which states had the highest trends. Southern states Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama topped the list for states that had high prescription rates and low overdose rates. Alabama in particular had the highest rate of prescription and the 31st highest overdose rate.

On the other side we saw north eastern states Massachusests, Connecticut and New Jersey to have high rates of overdose with a low rate of prescription. Massachusetts had the 9th highest overdose rate and the 4th lowest prescription rate. While most state showed a strong inverse there are some outliers that show a correlation in prescription and overdose rates. Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee each have have high rates of overdoses and prescription rates. While prescription practices of opioids do play a role in the crisis, the costly overdose rates might not draw the strongest correlation. Leaving other factors at play and not completely at the fault of big pharma.

States with high prescription rates and low overdose rates

Rank State Overdose Rank Prescription Rank Rank Difference
1 Mississippi 41 4 37
2 Arkansas 34 2 32
3 Alabama 31 1 30
4 Kansas 43 17 26
5 Oklahoma 29 6 23
6 Wyoming 42 20 22
7 Nebraska 50 28 22
8 Georgia 36 15 21
9 Idaho 37 16 21
10 Oregon 40 19 21

States low prescription rates and high overdose rates

Rank State Overdose Rank Prescription Rank Rank Difference
1 Massachusetts 9 47 -38
2 Connecticut 11 43 -32
3 New Jersey 12 44 -32
4 Maryland 7 38 -31
5 New Hampshire 6 35 -29
6 Rhode Island 10 39 -29
7 Pennsylvania 3 26 -23
8 Maine 8 31 -23
9 Ohio 2 22 -20
10 Vermont 21 41 -20

Methodology

QuoteWizard analyzed CDC data on opioid prescription and drug overdose rates in all 50 states. Opioid prescription rates was a rate per 100 people in each state in 2017. Drug overdose rates was 2017 age adjusted rate in each state. Overall rankings are a differential of prescription and overdose rankings in each state. Overall ranking differential was used to highlight states where there was an inverse correlation between prescription rates and overdose rates.