Why Are Overdose Rates So High in Some States?

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Why Are Overdose Rates So High in Some States?

The opioid crisis in the US keeps getting worse every year, with nearly 50,000 people dying of opioids alone in 2017. The opioid crisis is everywhere, but it’s not very evenly distributed. For example, in West Virginia, the state most heavily affected by the opioid crisis, there are about 43 opioid-related overdose deaths out of every 100,000 people, but in neighboring Virginia, there are only about 14 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 people, and California, there are fewer than five opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 people. Those are huge differences. Why are some states hit so hard by the opioid crisis, while others aren’t? The following characteristics seem to make states more vulnerable to the opioid crisis.

High unemployment

The states at the top of the list for opioid-related deaths are also near the top of the list for unemployment. There is a high correlation between substance use and unemployment. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about one in six unemployed workers have a substance use disorder. That’s about twice the rate in the general population. There is also a high correlation between depression and unemployment. A Gallup survey found that rates of depression tend to increase steadily the longer someone remains unemployed. After a year of unemployment, nearly 20 percent of people report being depressed, which is a major risk factor for substance use. The correlation between unemployment and overdose rates is only part of the story though, and it’s worth keeping in mind that substance use often comes before unemployment.

Predominance of manual labor jobs

Working in a manual labor job is also a major risk factor for developing substance use issues. Many states with high rates of overdose have a lot of workers in jobs like timbering, mining, construction, and fishing. These jobs often require workers to be away from friends and family for weeks at a time. They are also physically demanding and have a high risk of injury. Workers who are injured on the job are often given opioids as a quick fix to keep them working and they end up developing a dependence. Workers who are seriously injured on the job and require medical attention may end up developing an addiction to opioids to manage pain. This may also be compounded by the stress of unemployment.

Limited access to treatment

Many of the hardest hit areas are rural states with widely dispersed populations. While any medium-sized city is likely to have many treatment options, including treatment centers, therapists, and dozens of 12-step meetings, these resources may be hours away from some of the people who need them most. This distance may also be complicated by geography, such as in mountainous West Virginia. Rural states like Vermont have significantly reduced their overdose rates by creating active outreach programs to serve rural areas. Vermont is small though, and rural communities are relatively accessible. Larger states may need more creative solutions, such as telemedicine to reach more people who need help.

Pinnacle Recovery specializes in inpatient rehabilitation, trauma recovery, AA programs and AA alternatives, experiential therapy, dual diagnosis, family therapy, co-occurring and dual diagnosis addictions. We also offer a wide range of sober living and intensive outpatient treatment programs. Call 1-866-301-0573 today for more information.

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