West Virginia Poverty

Overdoses Clustered in Poorer Regions

Newly released data shows opioid deaths and poverty are closely linked across the country, with some areas suffering a staggering number of overdose fatalities.

As reported by Health Day, poverty may be fueling America’s opioid crisis, a new study suggests.

Of the more than 515,000 Americans who have died from drug overdoses since 2006, most lived in poor areas where there were few job opportunities, researchers discovered.

It turns out that economic and social conditions appear to be driving the geographic differences in overdose rates, with some parts of the country bearing heavier burdens than others, said study author Shannon Monnat, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University in New York.

“The drug epidemic is a pressing concern among policymakers, but the media portrayal of the drug overdose epidemic has largely been that it is a national crisis, with the common refrain that ‘addiction does not discriminate,’ ” Monnat said.

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John Auerbach, president and chief executive officer of the Trust for America’s Health, agreed that until poverty and lack of job opportunities are recognized as risk factors, the drug epidemic will continue unabated.

“There is a strong correlation between drug use and overdoses and social and economic factors in the lives of people,” said Auerbach, who wasn’t connected to the study. “As we grapple with opioids, we have to think about more than just treatment and overdose, we also need to think about the social determinants of drug addiction and overdose.”

According to the new report, the overall rate of overdose deaths in U.S. counties was nearly 17 deaths per 100,000 people. But the rate varied widely, depending on county.

In some counties, deaths from drug overdoses topped 100 deaths per 100,000, Monnat found.

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To learn more details about the intersection of opioid deaths and economics, please visit Health Day.

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