Opioid Death Rates Are Not Correlated With Prescription Rates Across States
Jacob Sullum
May 14th, 2018

Efforts to reduce opioid-related deaths by restricting access to pain medication seem to be backfiring by driving people toward more dangerous drugs. Two analyses published today provide more reason to be skeptical of this approach, showing there is no clear relationship between pain pill prescriptions and drug poisoning.

In a short piece published by the American Council on Science and Health, pain treatment activist Richard Lawhern compares opioid prescriptions per 100 people and opioid-related deaths per 100,000 people in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. He includes deaths involving both legal and illegal opioids. Based on data for 2016, Lawhern plots the two rates against each other, with prescriptions on the x-axis and deaths on the y-axis, and calculates a trend very close to zero. "Opioid OD death rates had no apparent relationship to opioid prescription rates from state to state," he writes. "Any effect of medical prescribing on OD deaths was literally 'lost in the noise' of other factors."
Read the full story here.

Plot of prescriptions versus deaths: