An Analysis of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone Distribution Trends in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Between 2006 and 2014

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analgesia, pain, pharmaco-epidemiology, prescription opioids, opioid use disorders



Opioid medications are widely recognized for their use in analgesia and their addictive properties that have led to the opioid epidemic. Areas with historically high prescribing patterns have been shown to suffer more from the crisis. There is also regional variability in these trends. This study is a county level analysis of oxycodone and hydrocodone use in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia between 2006 and 2014.

Materials and methods

A retrospective analysis of oxycodone and hydrocodone distributed as collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Post Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Raw drug weights in each county were adjusted to “daily average dose” (grams/county population/365) using publicly available population estimates for all state counties. Purchasing data collected from ARCOS was used to compare distribution trends during this period. This study was limited in that ARCOS report quantity of drug distribution rather than average dose of script written.


There was a 57.59% increase in the weight of oxycodone and hydrocodone prescribed between 2006 and 2014. Oxycodone prescriptions increased by 75.50% and hydrocodone by 11.05%. Oxycodone increased across all three states between 2006 and 2010 and declined until 2014. Hydrocodone also increased but to a lesser extent than oxycodone. There was substantial variability in daily average dose of both opioids at the county level in all states. Pharmacies accounted for largest portion of oxycodone (69.17%) and hydrocodone (75.27%) purchased in the region. Hospitals accounted for 26.67% of oxycodone and 22.76% of hydrocodone purchased. Practitioners and mid-level providers, including Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants, did not significantly contribute to this increase.


In the states of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, the distribution of the prescription opioids oxycodone and hydrocodone increased by 57.59%. Daily average dose increased between 2006 and 2010 in all three states, followed by a decline until 2014. Variability in daily average dose by county highlights the relationship between geography and likelihood of receiving high-dose opioids. Increased monitoring at regional health centers and improving substance abuse treatment infrastructure at the county level may be a more efficient strategy in combating the opioid epidemic. Future research is needed to understand the socioeconomic trends that may influence prescribing trends of opioid medications.

Publisher Attribution

DOI 10.7759/cureus.38211

This article was published by Cureus

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.