Death from drugs like oxycodone linked to disadvantaged neighborhoods, fragmented families

Death from analgesic overdose, including the painkillers oxycodone and codeine, is more concentrated in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with a prevalence of high divorce, single-parent homes than deaths from unintentional causes, according to research conducted at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Yet, compared to heroin overdose deaths, analgesic overdoses were found to occur in higher-income neighborhoods. This study is among the first to provide a framework that helps explain the geographical distribution of analgesic overdose in urban areas.

Findings are highlighted online in the October 17th American Journal of Public Health.

Rates of fatal overdoses caused by analgesic opioids have increased dramatically in the United States over the past 5 years. The prevalence of nonmedical analgesic drug abuse is second only to that of marijuana abuse. While research up to now has focused on the role of individual characteristics, scientists are recognizing that the environment increasingly plays a joint role to influence the risk of substance abuse including neighborhood characteristics and family fragmentation.

In the case-control study, researchers led by Magdalena Cerda, DrPH, assistant professor of Epidemiology, analyzed data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, to determine the role of neighborhood characteristics, including income distribution, quality of built environment and family fragmentation, in analgesic . They compared 447 unintentional analgesic opioid overdose fatalities with 3436 unintentional nonoverdose fatalities and 2530 heroin overdose fatalities occurring in 59 New York City neighborhoods between 2000 and 2006. The non-overdose accidental deaths included instances like drownings, poisonings, falls and other accidents.

Results from the study showed that while analgesic overdose deaths were almost one and a quarter times less likely to occur in higher-income neighborhoods compared to non-overdose accidental deaths, they were nearly one and a half times more likely to occur in higher-income neighborhoods than deaths from heroin overdose. Analgesic overdose deaths also occur in neighborhoods with a higher prevalence of divorced and single-parent homes than non-overdose fatalities, but they occur in neighborhoods with less divorce and single-parent homes than heroin fatalities. In neighborhoods with a higher concentration of fragmented families, there may be greater opportunity for diversion and trafficking of analgesics obtained from legitimate prescription users, noted Dr. Cerda.

"Given the increasing rates of analgesic overdose fatalities and the systematic distribution of overdose risk across urban , there is a critical need for research that identifies the particular neighborhood mechanisms that may distinguish the risk of analgesic overdose from that of illicit drug overdose," said Dr. Cerda.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Prescription overdose rate reaches epidemic levels in NYC

Feb 03, 2013

The rate of drug overdose from prescription opioids increased seven-fold in New York City over a 16-year period and was concentrated especially among white residents of the city, according to latest research at Columbia University's ...

Opioids involved in most medical overdose deaths

Feb 21, 2013

(HealthDay)—Opioid analgesics are involved in the majority of pharmaceutical-related overdose deaths, frequently involving drugs prescribed for mental health conditions, according to a research letter published ...

Recommended for you

Blood test for yeast infections approved

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The first blood test to detect five strains of yeast that cause rare blood infections in people with weakened immune systems has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Discount generic drug programs grow over time

Sep 22, 2014

Generic discount drug programs (GDDPs, which charge nominal fees to fill prescriptions) have grown over time and their initial lower use by racial/ethnic minorities has evaporated, writes author Song Hee Hong, Ph.D., of the ...

Seniors successfully withdraw from meds

Sep 19, 2014

Elderly people have proved receptive to being de-prescribed medications, as part of a trial aimed at assessing the feasibility of withdrawal of medications among older people.

User comments