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How do you view the opioid crisis? City dwellers, country folk disagree

For the first time, overdose deaths in the United States topped over 100,000 in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioids including fentanyl are responsible for most of these deaths. With the recent influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and increased polysubstance use, drug-related mortality has increased dramatically. The latest public data from the CDC indicates that reported overdose deaths in Texas involving fentanyl increased 399 percent in the last two fiscal years.

A new study published in Preventive Medicine Reports examined urban/metropolitan and rural differences in concerns about opioids, opioid misuse and strategies to reduce opioid use disorder risk in Central Texas. It found that although the majority of urban and rural respondents were concerned about opioid misuse, those in rural areas were less likely to perceive that individuals were receiving needed treatment and were less likely to support legalizing syringe exchange programs.

This research addresses many of the nine key Initiatives for combatting the opioid crisis promoted by the Texas A&M University Opioid Task Force co-chaired by Marcia G. Ory, lead author of the study, and Joy P. Alonzo, College of Pharmacy.

“Of particular interest is examining metropolitan-rural differences in awareness of individuals affected by opioid use in the community, concerns about the opioid crisis, perceived likelihood of getting substance use disorder treatment, and support for various harm reduction strategies,” said Ory, who is a Regents and Distinguished Professor in Environmental and Occupational Health at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health and faculty affiliate of the Texas A&M Health Center for Population Health and Aging.

“With the opioid epidemic rapidly evolving, additional research on temporal patterns of the epidemic and attitudes among a broader population, which include both high and non-high risk urban and rural areas, is recommended,” concludes Ory.

Additional authors from the School of Public Health included Shinduk Lee, Matthew Lee Smith, Heather Clark and James N. Burdine.