- Rates of death from opioid overdoses in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania are now higher than the rest of the United States.
- West Virginia’s rate is 35 per 100,000 people.
- Experts say that addressing the underlying socio-economic problems of communities where this happens is key to solving the issue.
The rates of opioid overdose deaths in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania are all now above the national average, according to a study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
The study, which focused on the impact of the opioid crisis on the labour market in the fourth Federal Reserve district, found that while the nationwide rate of deaths from opioid overdoses sits at around ten per 100,000 people, Pennsylvania’s is around 10.5, Kentucky’s is 20, and Ohio’s is around 22. West Virginia’s is a staggering 35.
The study also showed, as several previous ones also have, that rates of overdoses deaths relating to fentanyl have eclipsed those relating to heroin.
Last week, President Donald Trump announced a national public health emergency to deal with the opioid crisis.
“As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue,” the president said Thursday. “It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. Never been this way. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.”
The underlying causes of the crisis are many, however high rates of overdose deaths seems to be driven at least partially by high prescription rates. Although heroin and fentanyl deaths have been on the rise, legal opioids still act as a gateway to these drugs, and experts say over-prescription often leads to an increased likelihood of addiction. Many states where prescription rates are high, like West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, also have high levels of opioid abuse.
While the Trump administration has announced an increased focus on developing strategies to prevent over-prescription, there remain socio-economic problems that make people more likely to fall into addictive behaviours like lack of economic opportunities, poverty, and lack of health insurance.
Health experts like Stanford professor Keith Humphreys says tackling the broad opioid issue will require responding to these indirect causes.
“So why are more people dying in West Virginia,” Humphreys told Business Insider. “When people are addicted, they’re far less likely to get treatment, if they have an overdose, they’re far less likely for an ambulance to come, it could be really far away. The services aren’t there. So the same drug problem that is less likely to end up ruining your life if you happen to live in a city that has abundant health services, is going to harm you more when you’re living in a low-income rural state like West Virginia, Kentucky, or southern Ohio.”
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