Updated: August 2022
Author: Division of Substance Use Programs, Vermont Department of Health
Vermont prescribers have made a concerted effort to only prescribe opioids when essential, and instead use other means for controling pain. This has resulted in a significant decrease in opioids prescribed to Vermonters.
A single opioid prescription can be prescribed with a different number of doses, in differing strengths, or in different formulations. This can make comparisons across prescriptions challenging. Morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) are a way to standardize and compare prescriptions across these variations. Many research experts, federal agencies (e.g., CDC, BJA, SAMHSA) and VPMS use MMEs in order to better understand the abuse and overdose potential of opioid analgesics.
Total MME is a good indication of the total amount of opioids dispensed in the state. Reducing the amount of opioids dispensed is an important part of the statewide strategy to reduce opioid overdose and dependence. Total MME is reported as a rate per 100 people in Vermont to allow comparisons between counties of different sizes.
Note: the 2020 decrease is partially due to the use of the 2020 VT census data which showed a reported a higher estimate than the Vermont population estimates that were previously used. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in March 2020, has disrupted the provision of healthcare in Vermont which can impact this number.