New research published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports investigated Ohio Health Department records from 2010 to 2017. They observed that white men between the ages of 30 and 39 were most at risk of lethal overdoses.
The epidemic disproportionately affects white men over white women in all age categories, the study found.The study found that opioid fatalities also affected black men ages 30 to 39 at disproportionate rates compared to the total population.
Likewise, UC’s analysis recognized 12 clusters or hot zones across Ohio, where the rate of lethal overdoses is highest. The groups were predominantly but not solely in the biggest cities. These geographic regions were home to 21% of the state’s at-risk population but witnessed 40% of the opiate-related mortalities in Ohio over the eight years examined.
Diego Cuadros, an assistant professor of geography at UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, said UC’s findings could help direct health policy in Ohio to support groups that are most at risk avoid the pitfalls of addiction.
He also expressed the importance of treatment but stressed that prevention is better. He said that they were aiming for the reduction of the use and abuse of opioids.
Cuadros runs UC’s Health Geography and Disease Modeling Laboratory that applies geographical information, viewpoints, and methods to the study of health, health care, and disease.
Cuadros and his students co-operated with UC’s James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University, and Drexel University.
Cuadros said that researchers are investigating why some populations look more susceptible to opiate addiction.
He said that they were just beginning the conversation to figure out what is driving the problem.
Opiates are insidious since they attack the body’s ability to elicit natural endorphins that make individuals feel better.
Cuadros also said that opiates desensitize natural endorphins so you don’t get the same feeling of contentment as you would otherwise from daily activities, such as food, exercise, or fun activities. Each time you’ll need more and more opioids.
UC College of Pharmacy Dean Neil MacKinnon, a study co-author, serves as co-chairman of the UC/UC Health Opioid Task Force, which was founded in 2017 to unite researchers, doctors, public advocates, and educators to address the epidemic.
MacKinnon stated that this study had contributed valuable new insights into the opioid crisis in Ohio.
The study demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary work as Dr. Cuadros, and his colleagues from the Department of Geography made essential contributions to our research team in pharmacy. MacKinnon expressed the hope that this is an ongoing partnership for the UC/UC Health Opioid Task Force.
UC doctoral student Andres Hernandez, the lead author, said substance abuse disorders are complex and influenced by economic welfare, family history, and mental health.
Hernandez gave an example that a person with relatives who suffered substance abuse disorders is 10 times more likely to suffer from substance abuse. The study identified 12 most urban parts of Ohio that were disproportionately hit by the epidemic. Many of these batches were in southwest Ohio.
Hernandez also said that Ohio has a history of high rates of drug consumption and illicit drug flow. I think understanding the qualities of the population with higher risk will lead to better strategies to mitigate the epidemic.”
UC’s analysis implies several phases of the epidemic, Cuadros said.
Researchers believe the opiate epidemic began with a swell in legal prescription painkillers. Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from chronic pain that is so severe that it impairs their daily activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But regulators and law enforcement began scrutinizing prescription opiates and passing laws limiting refills or reducing dosages. Some doctors were prosecuted. In the absence of easy access to prescription opiates, some people turned to illicit opioids, especially heroin, which was comparatively cheap and readily available.
“And now this latest phase has seen the rise of fentanyl in the opioid epidemic,” Cuadros said.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is between 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s often added to heroin or other illicit drugs. Because of its potency, the risk of a fatal overdose is higher.
“It’s more potent than other prescription opioids. And it seems to be cheaper to produce and distribute. So we’re getting a new element in the epidemic,” Cuadros said.
Cuadros said he would like to extend the analysis nationwide using data provided by the CDC. Bargaining access to these records can be tricky because federal health privacy laws cover even the deceased.
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