Opioid mortality in rural communities
Opioid mortality has become a significant medical and economic burden in the UnitedStates, accounting for over 66.3% of drug-related overdoses and $78 billion dollars in healthcare costs. The current US “opioid crisis” has continued to grow with an estimated 2.5 millionpatients being diagnosed with opioid use disorders in 2016. In response, policy makers andgovernment agencies have initiated several programs to mitigate the adverse effects of opioidsthrough expanding access and delivery of evidenced-based treatment and rehabilitationprograms. Rural communities remain significant risk factors for opioid overdose and mortalityin areas lacking access to opioid therapy. Despite measures to provide access to rehabilitationand medical therapy, the opioid-related mortality rate in rural areas has increased significantlydue to greater opioid prescriptions in these areas, an out-migration of young adults, greaterrural social and kinship network connections, and economic stressors. However, limitedopioid-related mortality data in rural regions, such as West Texas, impede further analysisand investigation into effective programs for preventing and treating opioid overdoses in thesecommunities.