“There is perhaps no greater threat to economic security of rural America than its on going drug abuse epidemic. This is an epidemic that stretches from coast to coast and includes almost everywhere in between. One just has to read the daily headlines here in Maine to see how pervasive this insidious epidemic is. As we will explore in this series, drug abuse in rural America inhibits the growth of industry, makes it difficult to attract new migrants and creates a bleak future for those who are left behind. The soul of Rural America is at stake here and a quick, thoughtful and thorough response will be needed to rid our communities of this epidemic.
To begin to formulate potential solutions, we must first understand how we got here. What is the root of the drug epidemic in rural America? In recent years, we have seen a spike in heroin overdoses but the drug epidemic certainly did not start there. For many years, prescription opioids were the drug of choice, driven largely by their increasing widespread availability that started in the late 1990s, sparked by the emergence of Oxycontin in 1996 and the growing desire to address the “pain epidemic.”
As these drugs became increasingly available, they hit rural America the hardest. But why? It was basically the confluence of many factors. First of all, many rural areas (such as Appalachian Kentucky and West Virginia) are home to industries that induce chronic pain, think mining for example. This chronic pain creates a need to medicate to be able to work and eventually these medications become a normal part of the community. As the previously cited American Journal of Public Health article says, “[a] higher density of available opioids may create opportunities for illegal markets in rural areas because family and friends are a primary distribution source of nonmedical prescription opioids.” The article goes on to note that family and friend networks tend to be strongest in rural areas and that that creates an easier distribution channel for the drugs. In fact, a 2006 study found that 63 percent of drug overdoses in West Virginia were by people who did not have a prescription in their name. Also, for the patient, an increased dependence on these drugs creates the need to continue to take them even after the patient has stopped working. After all, the chronic pain from working in a high stress job often does not go away once the person has stopped working at the job.”
See related article: AHRQ Announces Grant Opportunities To Address Opioid Abuse Disorder in Rural Areas available at: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ahrq-announces-grant-opportunities-to-address-opioid-abuse-disorder-in-rural-areas-300189946.html
Source: BangorDailyNews.com – December 6, 2015