Kentucky counties among highest in opioid prescriptions
In four counties – Bell, Floyd, Owsley and Whitley – enough prescriptions were dispensed for every person in the county to have at least two.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed in the U.S. in 2017. That’s a prescribing rate of 58.7 prescriptions per 100 people.
The national prescribing rate is down from a 2012 peak, when 255 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed equal to a prescribing rate of 81.3 prescriptions per 100 people.
The prescribing rate in the U.S. hit a ten year low in 2017.
Prescribing rates in Kentucky mirror national trends: rates are still high, but down significantly in the last few years.
In 2017, Kentucky had the seventh highest opioid prescription rate in the country at 86.8 prescriptions per 100 people, considerably higher than the national rate of 58.7 prescriptions per 100 people.
However, that rate is down from a 10-year peak of 137 prescriptions per 100 people reached in 2011. In 2008, Kentucky had the second highest opioid prescription rate in the country.
In 2017, opioid prescription rates varied considerably across Kentucky counties. Todd County had the lowest rate (5.0, or 5 prescriptions per 100 people) followed by Livingston County (5.3) and Bracken County (16.6).
On the other end of the spectrum, Owsley County had the highest prescription rate (229.3), followed by Bell County (228.4) and Whitley County (220.9).
Four Kentucky counties – Owsley, Bell, Whitley and Floyd – were in the top 10 highest county-level opioid prescription rates in the country in 2017. Kentucky had 13 counties in the top 100.
However, many of these rates are coming down quickly. From 2011-2017, prescribing rates fell in a majority of counties (103). In more than a dozen counties, the rate has been cut at least in half over this period.
The prescribing rate in Floyd County for example is one of the highest in the country at 226.2. But that rate is almost half of the county's ten year peak rate of 426.4 reached in 2011. In Hickman County, the prescribing rate is now below the national rate, falling from a high of 111.4 in 2010 to 53.9 in 2017.
Ninety-two Kentucky counties had an opioid prescription rate higher than the national average in 2017.