By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – We have a major public health problem in this country and it has to do with the overuse of opioid medications.

The use of opioid painkillers – and overdose-related deaths connected to these drugs – has clearly been on the rise in the United States.

A new study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine looked at over 1 million hospital admissions – at 286 hospitals – and found that over half (51%) of all nonsurgical patients received opioids during their stay. Forty-three percent of the patients receiving opioids were exposed to multiple opioids. Experts say this number is dramatically high.

Our region prescribed less often: the west having the highest prescribing rate and the northeast the lowest.

Patients receiving opioids at hospitals that prescribe more frequently were at higher risk for severe opioid-related problems than hospitals with lower prescribing rates.

Clearly this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

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