Regional Trends in Overdose Deaths Reveal Multiple Opioid Epidemics, According to New Study

The United States is suffering from several different simultaneous opioid epidemics, rather than just a single crisis, according to an academic study of deaths caused by drug overdoses.

David Peters, an associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University, co-authored the study, which appeared in the academic journal Rural Sociology. Peters and his co-authors conducted a county-level analysis of death certificates from across the country that noted opioid overdoses as the cause of death. The study found regional differences in the kind of opioids that cause the most overdose deaths, and these differences should lead to policymakers considering varying strategies to address the epidemics, Peters said.

“Our results show that it’s more helpful to think of the problem as several epidemics occurring at the same time rather than just one,” Peters said. “And they occur in different regions of the country, so there’s no single policy response that’s going to address all of these epidemics. There needs to be multiple sets of policies to address these distinct challenges.”

Multiple epidemics

The study describes three different opioid epidemics in the United States, as well as a syndemic, or a single population experiencing more than one epidemic:

— A prescription drug epidemic persists in rural southern states where access to opioids centers on local pharmacies. Overdose deaths linked to pharmaceuticals peaked nationwide in 2013 and have fallen in the years since. However, some rural counties continue to struggle with prescription drugs, according to the study.
— A heroin epidemic has taken root in states out west and in the Midwest, especially in urban areas near major interstates that experience heavy drug trafficking. The study found overdose deaths related to heroin clustered along two major corridors, one linking El Paso to Denver and another linking Texas and Chicago. Peters said those findings correspond with known routes used by cartels smuggling heroin into the United States from Mexico.
— An epidemic of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, has grown as a major concern in urban centers in the northeastern United States. Often these synthetic drugs are mixed with heroin or cocaine and made to resemble prescription medications. These counterfeit street mixes are highly potent and deadly.
— A syndemic involving multiple simultaneous opioid epidemics exists in counties where the opioid crisis first erupted, particularly in mid-size cities in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia that have experienced steep job losses in manufacturing and mining.

Peters said roughly a quarter of all counties in the United States fall into one of the epidemic categories noted in the study.

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The data used in the study came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Financial Lives of Young People in Foster Care

YPII is one of 15 sites across the country participating in Opportunity PassportTM, a package of resources designed by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative that teaches young people who have been in foster care how to manage their finances, and matches their savings toward approved asset purchases such as a car to get to work, a computer for school, or housing.

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, a national foundation that supports young people transitioning from foster care into adulthood, commissioned a recent report that examines the impact of this matched assets and financial education program on young people aging out of foster care. Carol Behrer will discuss the report’s findings, her experience on the ground in Iowa, and the importance of programs that target asset accumulation among vulnerable young people in the child welfare system.

Enduring Assets: Findings from a Study on the Financial Lives of Young People Transitioning from Foster Care

By Clark Peters, PhD JD AM; Margaret Sherraden, PhD AM; and Ann Marie Kuchinski, MA

This report, published in September 2012, examines the impact of the Opportunity PassportTM‘s asset matching and financial education resources in the lives of young people aging out of foster care. The report found that these supports have a tangible impact on the ability of young people to lead financially stable lives long after they have left the foster care system. This summary presents major findings of the full report. For more information, download our news release.

The Jim Casey Foundation’s Youth Opportunities Initiative is the force behind the research on this invaluable topic. The Foundation designated Carol Behrer the Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute of Iowa (YPII) to participate in our Twitter Chat.

[vimeo width=”640″ height=”380″]http://vimeo.com/43135529[/vimeo]

Here are a few of the tweets during the Live Chat. 

View Complete Chat Here

A live twitter chat was held on October 15, 2012 at 8 PM EST for a #SWUnited Twitter Chat which will discuss the Financial Lives of Young People in the Foster Care System. The Jim Casey Foundation’s Youth Opportunities Initiative is the force behind the research on this invaluable topic. The Foundation has designated Carol Behrer the Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute of Iowa (YPII) to participate in our Twitter Chat.

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