How Maryland measured up in opioid prescribing

Maryland fared well when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last week on the nationwide decline in prescribing of opioid-based painkillers.

The report found that overall, opioid prescription rates peaked in 2010 before subsiding each year through 2015.


All but three Maryland counties showed declines in the rate of such prescriptions per capita. Only Allegany, Garrett and Talbot saw increases between 2010 and 2015; however, the data is complicated.

Opioid prescription rates remained above the national average in 17 of the state's 23 counties.


The CDC measured prescriptions using a formula that equalized the variety of opioid painkillers and their strengths and dosages into what it called a "morphine milligram equivalent," then measured that volume of opioids against county and city populations to establish the per-capita rate.

The table below depicts how Maryland counties and Baltimore City fared in descending order. It also shows what quartile the municipality falls in nationwide. Those in the third and fourth quartile are above the national average, while those in the first and second are below the national average.

Interestingly, Baltimore City, which is the state's hardest-hit municipality in the epidemic of overdoses from illegal opioids, fell just below the national average rate for prescription opioid painkillers.

Opioid painkiller prescription rates in Maryland

The rate of opioid prescriptions per capita as measured by "morphine milligram equivalent," a measure that accounts for the variety of opioid painkillers and their strengths and dosages.


Municipality, 2010, 2015, quartile

Kent County; 1,980; 1,565.8; 4th

Allegany County; 1,239.6; 1,400.9; 4th

Washington County; 1,302.4; 1,274.8; 4th

Calvert County; 1,403.8; 1,118.5; 4th

Cecil County; 2,550.9; 1,112.8; 4th

Talbot County; 903.7; 948.5; 3rd

Carroll County; 1,156.2; 913.7; 3rd

Harford County; 1,179.8; 912.5; 3rd

Wicomico County; 1,854.2; 899.7; 3rd

Baltimore County; 1,071.5; 882.9; 3rd

Charles County; 1,159.8; 866; 3rd

Garrett County; 688.2; 817; 3rd

St. Mary's County; 797.1; 784.7; 3rd

Frederick County; 944.7; 742.2; 3rd

Anne Arundel County; 881.1; 740.3; 3rd

Worcester County; 1,401.8; 712.1; 3rd

Queen Anne's County; 958.1; 690.1; 3rd

Dorchester County; 664.5; 545.8; 2nd

Somerset County; 821.8; 550; 2nd

Baltimore City; 554.3; 519; 2nd

Caroline County; 645.6; 495.3; 2nd

Montgomery County; 523; 355.7; 1st

Howard County; 384.7; 353.2; 1st

Prince George's County; 381.1; 283.2; 1st

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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