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Opioid crisis affects all Americans, rural and urban


Between 1999 and 2015, opioid death rates in rural areas have quadrupled among those 18-to-25-year-olds and tripled for females.


By Ahlishia Shipley
Division of Family and Consumer Sciences,
National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Research and Science

Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. That’s three people every hour.

As if the death rate wasn’t bad enough, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, and addiction treatment.

Despite the grim subject matter depicted in TV and movies, opioid addiction is not confined to big cities. The effects of the opioid epidemic are more intense in rural communities where employment opportunities are often limited and isolation is pervasive. Between 1999 and 2015, opioid death rates in rural areas have quadrupled among those 18-to-25-year-olds and tripled for females.

Perhaps most troubling is a fast-growing class of opioid victims had no say in the matter. In 2012, an estimated 21,732 babies – one every 25 minutes – were born with opioid withdrawal symptoms, a condition known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). According to a study by University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University, NAS has risen twice as fast in rural areas compared with metropolitan areas.

Healthcare plays a pivotal role in the treatment and prevention of addiction, but its outreach education resources are limited, particularly in rural areas. Fortunately, the Cooperative Extension Services managed by land-grant universities in each state are well positioned at the local level to provide free or low-cost prevention education activities designed to help improve mental and physical health and reduce pain. Such measures may serve to decrease opioid prescriptions and the potential for subsequent abuse. Read more.

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