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New Numbers Reveal Huge Disparities in Opioid Prescribing (2017)

MARTINSVILE, Va. - For most of the last decade, this once thriving city had the highest unemployment rate in Virginia. Its disability and poverty rates are consistently double the state average, and its population is aging.

In July, the former textile and furniture manufacturing mecca earned another dubious distinction. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its drugstores dispense the highest volume of opioid painkillers per capita in the nation.

Using 2015 data from retail pharmacy receipts, the CDC for the first time reported the volume and potency of pain tablets sold in the nation’s drugstores and calculated per capita rates of morphine equivalent doses sold at the county level.

Martinsville drugstores came out on top, selling enough Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and other opioid painkillers to medicate every man, woman and child in the city for 136 days, nearly seven times the national average.

In 2015, Americans on average consumed the equivalent of 21 days of the average dose of morphine per person, three times the rate of opioid use in 1999, according to the CDC.