Opioid overdoses are more likely to rise in both rural and urban areas because of a deadly trend of mixing them with other drugs.
“There will be an even worse wave of opioid overdoses than we’ve seen in the past,” said researchers from Northwestern Medicine in Chicago as they studied trends and used a prediction model to predict where deaths would escalate.
I am raising the alarm because for the first time, urban and rural housing affordability rates have converged, says corresponding author Lori Post. Dr Buehler is director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“The death rate from opioids is not just at an all-time high, but the acceleration of those deaths is even more explosive than an already historically high number.”
For this study, researchers used data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database for 3,147 counties and areas equivalent to counties between 1999 and 2020.
We were trying to figure out if geography influenced past waves and to speculate about any upcoming waves.
In rural areas, opioid overdose deaths in 2020 are escalating quicker than in cities. By 2019, drug-related deaths skyrocketed for the first time in six types of rural and urban counties, Post said.
In America, we’ve seen the highest escalation rate for the first time and the fourth wave will be worse than it’s ever been before, Post said. “There is going to be mass death.”
The team studied toxicology reports and found that people are using fentanyl (a more potent version of morphine) and carfentanil (100 times more potent than fentanyl) in combination with methamphetamines and cocaine.
This potent cocktail can complicate someone’s response to an overdose reversing drug like naloxone.
“The stronger the drug, the more difficult it is to revive them,” said study coauthor Alexander Lundberg, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Feinberg. “Polysubstance use exacerbates an already dire situation.”
Post said, “It appears that those who have died from opioid overdoses had been playing pharmacist and trying to manage their own dosing. This is a bigger problem because you have people misusing cocaine and methamphetamines along with an opioid, so you have to treat two problems at once, and the fentanyl is very volatile.”
Authors of the study said methadone centers provide anti-addiction treatments in conjunction with medication. That’s more likely to be found in urban areas. Post asserted that medication-assisted treatment may not be as effective in rural areas because what is effective in urban areas may not work as well there.
No one wants to be a drug addict. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on Percocet after breaking your back mining or if you’re in high school and got into grandma’s cabinet of medicines. We need to look at opioid addiction and overdose prevention immediately,” Post said.
“We have to increase awareness of opioid addiction and provide medication-assisted treatment that is culturally appropriate and non-stigmatizing in rural communities,” she added.
More details about the opioid epidemic are available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
From the source: Northwestern Medicine