With many states struggling to effectively handle the opioid crisis, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Cincinnati sought to identify groups across the country that were at the highest risk of opioid addiction.
They studied opioid use throughout the state of Ohio in the hopes that lawmakers can better serve their communities and help reduce the number of overdoses.
“This area has a history of high rates of drug consumption and illegal drug flow,” said researcher Andres Hernandez. “I think understanding the characteristics of the population with higher risk will result in better strategies to mitigate the pandemic.”
Who is most at risk?
The researchers analyzed medical records across Ohio from 2010 through 2017 to best determine the groups across the state at the highest risk.
In addition to finding groups that were most likely to overdose on opioids, the researchers’ work also discovered a dozen sites across the state where opioid overdoses and related deaths were the most common. The more urban parts of Ohio were the most affected in this way.
As for demographic groups, the researchers learned that men were more likely than women to abuse opioids and experience opioid-related fatalities. Both white and black men in their thirties were the most likely to struggle with their opioid use, more so than any other group involved in the study.
“We’re just beginning the conversation to figure out what is driving this,” Hernandez said.
Developing prevention strategies
The researchers explained that there are several factors at play when thinking about the rapid spread of the opioid crisis. Recently, experts have found that the time of year and age can play a role.
Moving forward, the researchers hope to expand this kind of work to discover other vulnerable groups around the country. Knowing what groups are at the highest risk can hopefully lead to prevention strategies to help consumers.
“If not nationwide, we’d like to conduct the same analysis for Kentucky and West Virginia, the epicenter of the opioid epidemic,” said researcher Diego Cuadros. “It’s a regional problem. So it’s important knowing what’s going on.”