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New study analyzes sharp rise in US drug poisoning deaths by county
Date:11/11/2013

San Diego, CA, November 12, 2013 A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine gives new insight into the geographic variation in drug poisoning mortality, with both urban centers and rural areas showing a large increase in death rates. While previous studies have looked at drug poisoning related deaths in broad strokes, this is the first study to examine them on the county level across the entire U.S.

Drug poisoning is now the leading cause of injury death in the U.S. and has increased by more than 300 percent over the last three decades. Almost 90 percent of poisoning deaths can be attributed to illicit or licit drugs, with prescription drugs accounting for the majority of drug overdose deaths.

According to reports from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, about 2.1 percent of Americansor roughly 5 million peoplehave used prescription painkillers non-medically in the past month. The rise in drug-related deaths correlates to the increase in the non-medical use of prescription drugs, especially opioid analgesics.

While there have been some reports that suggest the rise in deaths has been sharper in rural areas than in urban centers, data to support the claim had never been fully substantiated. In this new study, investigators used small area estimation techniques to produce stable estimates of drug-related poisoning deaths at a county level, which revealed more information about how geography plays a role in death rates.

Using data obtained from the National Vital Statistics Multiple Cause of Death Files, investigators found that in 1999 only 3 percent of counties had annual drug poisoning age adjusted death rates (AADRs) over ten per 100,000, but found that the rate rose to 54 percent of counties by 2008. Additionally, while drug poisoning AADRs increased across all geographic areas both large and small, there was a greater percentage increase for rural areas (394 percent) compared to
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Contact: Beverly Lytton
eAJPM@ucsd.edu
858-534-9340
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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