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Opioid Distribution 2006-2012
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DEA Database Tracking Opioid Sales Made Public

Court Orders DEA Records Released

On June 20, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Washington Post and HD Media, publisher of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, could access the DEA’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS). This database tracks the path of every pain pill sold in the United States but had not been accessible to the public until the recent court order. The Washington Post has published the database in a way that makes it possible to get state- and county-specific data about the number of pills distributed (click the map below to access the interactive database). The large number of pills going to various US communities appears to help explain the current crisis of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

According to a 2010 New Mexico Department of Health report, New Mexico had the highest rate of drug-induced death in the country. This statistic has improved in recent years, but New Mexico still has a long way to go. According to 2017 data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 16.7 deaths per 100,000 population in New Mexico, making us 17th in the country (West Virginia was first with 49.6 deaths per 100,000). The recently accessible ARCOS data helps explain those numbers. For example, between 2006 and 2012, over 200 million pills flooded into Bernalillo County – enough to supply every person in the county with 44 pills per year.

Given the ongoing crisis, it’s not surprising that opioid prescribing regulations continue to expand, affecting all health care providers in New Mexico. NPs can and should be part of the solution to this crisis. Being knowledgeable about the extent of the problem, best practices for pain management strategies and current regulations for opioid prescribing are crucial in NPs’ efforts to continue to provide compassionate and high-quality care to our patients experiencing pain.


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