Sales of the nation’s two most popular prescription painkillers have exploded in new parts of the
country, an Associated Press analysis shows, worrying experts who say the push to relieve patients'
suffering is spawning an addiction epidemic. From New York’s Staten Island to Santa Fe, N.M., Drug
Enforcement Administration figures show dramatic rises between 2000 and 2010 in the distribution of
oxycodone, the key ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan. Some places saw sales increase
sixteen-fold. Meanwhile, the distribution of hydrocodone, the key ingredient in Vicodin, Norco and
Lortab, is rising in Appalachia, the original epicenter of the painkiller epidemic, as well as in
the Midwest. For an interactive U.S. map, see:Click Here
The increases have coincided with a wave of overdose deaths, pharmacy robberies and other problems
in New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Florida and other states. Opioid pain relievers, the category that
includes oxycodone and hydrocodone, caused 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008 alone, and the death toll
is rising, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
The AP analysis used drug data collected quarterly by the DEA’s Automation of Reports and
Consolidated Orders System. The DEA tracks shipments sent from distributors to pharmacies,
hospitals, practitioners and teaching institutions and then compiles the data using three-digit ZIP
codes. Every ZIP code starting with 100-, for example, is lumped together into one figure. The AP
combined this data with census figures to determine effective sales per capital.