Drug Overdose Rates Are Highest in Places With the Most Economic and Family Distress

Source: Shannon Monnat, Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, National Issue Brief #134, Spring 2018

From the summary:
The U.S. drug overdose problem has reached epidemic levels, prompting President Trump to declare a public health emergency. Since 2000, 786,781 people in the United States have died from drug overdoses and other drug-related causes, with nearly 40 percent of those deaths occurring in the last three years alone.

The news media regularly portrays the drug overdose epidemic as a national crisis, but some places have much higher drug mortality rates than others. On average, rates are higher in counties with higher levels of economic distress and family dissolution, and they are lower in counties with a larger per capita presence of religious establishments. These findings hold even when controlling for demographic differences, urban or rural status, and health care supply.

KEY FINDINGS
– In 2016, the national drug-related mortality rate per 100,000 persons ranged from a low of 9.9 in Nebraska to a high of 60.3 in West Virginia.
– From 2006 to 2015, counties with the highest levels of economic distress experienced an average of 7.9 more drug-related deaths per 100,000 persons than counties with the lowest levels. This difference is the equivalent of nearly 40,000 excess deaths in the most economically distressed counties over the 10-year period.
– Counties with the highest levels of family dissolution (divorce/separation and single-parent families) had an average of 8.1 more drug-related deaths per 100,000 persons than counties with the lowest levels.
– Counties with the highest per capita presence of religious establishments had an average of 4.7 fewer drug-related deaths per 100,000 persons than counties with the lowest presence of religious establishments.

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