(NEW YORK) -- A report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday found the overall number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. dropped by nearly 17 percent from 2010 to 2012 -- from 3,201 deaths to 2,666. The rate of death per 100,000 persons also dropped from 17 to 14.
Even more stark is the drop in death rates caused by prescription drugs, falling 23.2 percent from 14.5 deaths per 100,000 persons to 11.1 deaths per 100,000.
The agency's report was based on prescribing data from retail pharmacies across the country.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden attributed the improved numbers to tougher regulations on pain clinics and health care providers, saying that the higher figures seen just a few years back were caused by "poor prescribing practices."
The CDC also found noticeably higher rates of opioid painkiller prescriptions in southern states like Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia than in most of the rest of the country.
It appears that prescriptions for such painkillers is largely dependant on where you live, as there was a wide gap between the highest prescribing state, Alabama, and the lowest, Hawaii. nearly three times as many such prescriptions were written in Alabama in 2012 as there were in Hawaii.
Despite the drop in painkiller deaths, the CDC says more can be done. Namely, states should consider ways to increase monitoring programs for prescription drugs, potential legislation to reduce risky prescribing practices, state self-evaluation and expansion of first responder access to naloxone, the heroin overdose drug that was made available to emergency personnel in New York City earlier this year.
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