For the first time, Americans can see the rise — and fall — of legal opioids entering their community. A database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks every single pain pill sold in the United States, tracing the path from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city, is now public through 2019, the tail end of the pain pill crisis.
These records provide an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which resulted in more than 210,000 overdose deaths during the 14-year time frame ending in 2019. It also sparked waves of an ongoing and raging opioid crisis first fueled by heroin and then illicit fentanyl.
The Washington Post sifted through 760 million transactions from 2006 through 2019 that are detailed in the DEA’s database and specifically focused on oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, which account for three-quarters of all opioid dosages shipped to pharmacies during that time. The Post is making this data available at the county and state levels to help the public understand the impact of years of prescription pill shipments on their communities.
A county-level analysis shows where the most oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were distributed across the country over that time — more than 145 billion in all.
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