Monitoring the spread of opioids

The Drug Enforcement Agency tracks every pill manufactured, distributed and shipped to pharmacies nationwide in a database called ARCOS. Reporters at The Washington Post won a long court battle to release details from that database, which they made public and used to track the spread of opioids across the country.

Like other drugs, opioid prescriptions vary by dosage and days supply, so one way to compare them is by calculating a measurement called MME - morphine milligram equivalents. The CDC's guidelines say a typical opioid prescription – 5 mg of hydrocodone every four hours – totals 30 MME per day. By this conservative measure, pharmacies in many counties dispensed enough opioids to medicate every one of its residents around the clock for days.

Select a county below to see how the annual MME per person for pills shipped to each county changed from 2006 to 2012, according the most recent data made available publicly by The Washington Post from the DEA's ARCOS database.

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Additional Resources

WRAL Coverage of the Opioid Crisis