Alabama’s use of prescription opioids reached the highest in the country last year — 5.8 million prescriptions were written in 2015.
Meanwhile, companies creating the prescription painkillers and their advocates have contributed more than $539,350 to Alabama candidates, and since 2006 have hired on average 18 lobbyists annually in the state to push their policies.
Alabamians receive more prescription opioids per person than residents of any other state in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — equating to a rate of 1.2 prescriptions per person. By comparison, the national per capita use was 0.71 in 2015.
A joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found organizations spent $880 million and hired an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in state capitals around the country from 2006 through 2015. In contrast, groups seeking limits on opioid prescriptions spent about $4 million — more than 200 times less.
Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed nationwide since 2000. In recent years, the use of opioid pain relievers such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Lortab have been particularly common in the Yellowhammer State, contributing to the 723 drug-related deaths in 2014.
In fact, there were 5,128 deaths from overdoses in Alabama from 2006 through 2014. The state’s death rate per 100,000 in 2014 was 14.9.
The number of overdose deaths soared 82 percent from 2006 to 2014. However, the overdose deaths aren’t strictly limited to opioids, but the CDC has indicated prescription opioids and heroin account for the majority of drug deaths in the state.