ABC News, July 6, 2017
Mike Stobbe

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Overall opioid prescription rates have been falling in recent years, but the powerful drugs have become more plentiful in more than than 1 in 5 U.S. counties, a report released Thursday finds.

The amount of opioids prescribed fell 18 percent between 2010 and 2015. But researchers found local differences, with opioid prescribing six times higher in some counties than others.

Rates vary "as much from place to place as the weather," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's the latest to show a decline in opioid prescribing as regulators and others have pushed doctors to cut back on issuing narcotic painkillers. The CDC last year issued the first guidelines to doctors aimed at discouraging prescribing opioids except in cases where they are most needed, like cancer and end-of-life care.

Prescription opioids are behind the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history. More than 52,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2015 — an all-time record — and experts believe the numbers have continued to rise. [...]

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