State News

Drug overdose problem worse in western NC

Posted February 21

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According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths caused by drug overdose have hit an all-time high in the United States, jumping 7 percent in just one year and killing over 40,000 Americans in 2014.

The problem can largely be attributed to the rapid rise in the abuse of opioids, including both prescription pain relievers and heroin.

The below visualization shows drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 people in counties across the U.S. States with the highest concentrations of overdoses include: Kentucky, West Virginia, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Historically, large metropolitan areas have the highest rates of drug overdoses, however, that is no longer the case. More deaths from drug overdoses are occurring today in rural and suburban areas.

The Appalachian region in particular (including Kentucky and West Virginia) has been stricken with high rates of overdose deaths for over a decade, mostly because of workplace-related injuries that are treated with opioid-based painkillers. New Mexico has experienced high heroin overdose rates since the early 1990s, and the issue continues to worsen.

The drug overdose epidemic is sweeping the nation and tearing communities and families apart. To help Americans understand how drug overdoses are affecting their communities, HealthGrove set out to investigate which states and counties are the most affected by drug overdose. Using the most recent data from the CDC, HealthGrove ranked the percent of state populations that live in counties with high overdose death rates. A high overdose death rate is defined as over 20 deaths per 100,000 people. We've ranked the 20 states with the highest percentage of people living in high overdose counties, and sorted them from lowest to highest. On each slide, we include the relevant state map of drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 people.

Note: The CDC reports drug poisoning deaths in ranges, so the HealthGrove team mapped drug poisoning deaths in relation to population density to rank this list.

#20. North Carolina

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 17.11%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 27.00%
Population: 9,651,380
Number of Counties in State: 100

#19. Ohio

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 17.32%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 15.91%
Population: 11,549,590
Number of Counties in State: 88

#18. Missouri

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 19.05%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 14.78%
Population: 6,007,182
Number of Counties in State: 115

#17. Alaska

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 21.54%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 13.79%
Population: 720,316
Number of Counties in State: 29

#16. Oregon

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 21.68%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 11.11%
Population: 3,868,721
Number of Counties in State: 36

#15. Massachusetts

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 22.73%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 21.43%
Population: 6,605,058
Number of Counties in State: 14

#14. Louisiana

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 25.51%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 12.50%
Population: 4,567,968
Number of Counties in State: 64

#13. Colorado

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 25.76%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 18.75%
Population: 5,119,329
Number of Counties in State: 64

#12. Maryland

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 26.31%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 12.50%
Population: 5,834,299
Number of Counties in State: 24

#11. Tennessee

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 32.00%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 46.32%
Population: 6,402,387
Number of Counties in State: 95

#10. Pennsylvania

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 36.57%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 14.93%
Population: 12,731,381
Number of Counties in State: 67

#9. Kentucky

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 38.71%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 51.67%
Population: 4,361,333
Number of Counties in State: 120

#8. Florida

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 43.40%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 35.82%
Population: 19,091,156
Number of Counties in State: 67

#7. West Virginia

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 61.53%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 49.09%
Population: 1,853,619
Number of Counties in State: 55

#6. Oklahoma

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 62.73%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 51.95%
Population: 3,785,742
Number of Counties in State: 77

#5. New Mexico

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 63.48%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 63.64%
Population: 2,069,706
Number of Counties in State: 33

#4. Rhode Island

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 75.41%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 40.00%
Population: 1,051,695
Number of Counties in State: 5

#3. Utah

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 78.45%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 58.62%
Population: 2,813,673
Number of Counties in State: 29

#2. Arizona

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 84.43%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 46.67%
Population: 6,479,703
Number of Counties in State: 15

#1. Nevada

Percent of Population Living in Counties with High Overdose Death Rates: 91.22%
Percent of Counties With High Overdose Rates: 41.18%
Population: 2,730,066
Number of Counties in State: 17

Overview of States With the Worst Overdose Problem

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1 Comment

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  • Rob Creekmore Feb 21, 2016
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    I lived in Western NC for four years. Unfortunately, almost every social problem is exacerbated there, primarily due to poor infrastructure and sub-standard medical access. For some reason, this side of the state likes to forget our friends to the west.