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Drug Overdose Deaths a National Problem, not Limited to Poor, Rural Counties

Posted on January 16, 2019

Researchers in the NCI Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, conducted a formal analysis of overall death rates and death rates from drug poisoning among 25-64-year-olds in the United States to look for patterns by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, rurality and geography. The findings were published January 14, 2019, in the journal Lancet Public Health.

Between 2000 and 2015, 9.5 million premature deaths occurred among 25-64-year-olds in the U.S., nearly 500,000 of them were from drug poisonings. In comparing the periods 2000-2003 and 2012-2015, the researchers observed sharp increases in rates of death from drug poisoning in counties throughout the country: wealthier and poorer counties, urban and rural counties, and among whites, blacks and Latinos. Although drug poisoning death rates increased more rapidly in poorer and rural counties, far more deaths occurred in metropolitan counties (76% of drug overdose deaths) than in rural counties (1% of drug overdose deaths), reflecting the larger population size of cities.

The authors conclude, drug overdose deaths are a national problem, increasing at an alarming rate in communities throughout the US, regardless of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status or rurality. Future research should focus on strategies to prevent drug overdose deaths in different communities throughout the country.


Shiels MS, Berrington de Gonzalez A, Best AF, et al. Premature mortality from all causes and drug poisonings in the USA according to socioeconomic status and rurality: An analysis of death certificate data by county from 2000–2015. Lancet Public Health Jan 14, 2019; DOI 10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30208-1.