CDC Provides 50-State Survey of Prescription Drug Overdose Laws

The CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and CDC's Public Health Law Program have collaborated and released a legal guide dealing with state prescription drug overdose laws. The states vary widely in their selection of the number and type of laws to address prescription drug abuse.


The drug overdose rate in the United States has been increasing rapidly since the early 1990s and is now considered an epidemic. Prescription drugs have been the primary contributor to the increase in drug overdose death rates. Misuse and abuse of these drugs contributes to the overdose problem.


The CDC selected seven types of laws designed to prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs:

  • Laws requiring a physical examination before prescribing
  • Laws requiring tamper-resistant prescription forms
  • Laws regulating pain clinics
  • Laws setting prescribing or dispensing limits for controlled substances
  • Laws prohibiting patients from obtaining controlled substances from multiple health care practitioners without the prescribers’ knowledge of the other prescriptions
  • Laws requiring patient identification before dispensing
  • Laws providing immunity from prosecution or mitigation at sentencing for individuals seeking assistance during an overdose


The CDC surveyed the laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine what laws have been enacted as of August 31, 2010. The data has been organized with regard to type of law as well as by state.


See the CDC’s Prescription Drug Overdose: State Laws