Thursday December 12, 2019

US Drug Overdose Deaths More Common in Cities than Rural Areas

New York, Chicago and Baltimore all reported dramatic spikes in overdose deaths in the last few years, and they are not alone

deaths, drug overdose
FILE - An unidentified heroin user, left, is injected by another man, right, on the street near a strip of land sometimes referred to as "Methadone Mile," in Boston, Aug. 23, 2017. VOA

U.S. drug overdose deaths, which have been concentrated in Appalachia and other rural areas for more than a dozen years, are back to being most common in big cities again, according to a government report issued Friday.

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the urban overdose death rate surpassed the rural rate in 2016 and 2017. Rates for last year and this year are not yet available. But experts, citing available data, say the urban rate is likely to stay higher in the near future.

The difference between the urban and rural counties was not large. In 2017, there were 22 overdose deaths per 100,000 people living in urban areas, compared with 20 per 100,000 in rural areas. The nation is battling the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history. About 68,000 Americans died of overdoses last year, according to preliminary CDC statistics reported last month.

Experts believe the epidemic has been playing out differently in different parts of the country, and they say it is best understood by comparing geographic regions — Appalachia and the Northeast, for example.

deaths, drug overdose, US cities
The CDC found the urban rates are driven by deaths in men and deaths from heroin, fentanyl and cocaine. Pixabay

The new CDC report looked at urban and rural overdose death rates for the nation overall. The researchers found both rates have been rising, but the urban rate shot up more dramatically after 2015 to surpass the rural rate.

New York, Chicago and Baltimore all reported dramatic spikes in overdose deaths in the last few years, and they are not alone. Diego Cuadros, a University of Cincinnati researcher, said the CDC findings are consistent with what he and his colleagues have seen in Ohio.

“Most of the hot spots are in the urban areas,” he said. The CDC found the urban rates are driven by deaths in men and deaths from heroin, fentanyl and cocaine. That probably is due to a shift in the current overdose epidemic, said Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a drug policy expert at the University of California, San Francisco.

The epidemic was initially driven by opioid pain pills, which were often as widely available in the country as in the city. But then many drug users shifted to heroin and then to fentanyl, and the illegal drug distribution system for heroin and fentanyl is more developed in cities, Ciccarone said.

Another possible explanation is increasing overdose deaths among blacks and Hispanics, including those concentrated in urban areas, he added. “Early on, this was seen as an epidemic affecting whites more than other groups,” he said. “Increasingly, deaths in urban areas are starting to look brown and black.”


drug overdose, deaths
New York, Chicago and Baltimore all reported dramatic spikes in overdose deaths in the last few years, and they are not alone. Pixabay

Women still die of overdoses at higher rates in rural areas, the CDC report found. And death rates tied to methamphetamine and prescription opioid painkillers remain higher in rural areas, too.

Using death certificate data, the CDC researchers looked at whether overdose victims were living in rural or urban counties at the time they died. They defined urban areas as counties with large and small cities and their suburbs. Rural areas were non-suburban counties with fewer than 50,000 residents.

ALSO READ: Scientists Relate Europe Heat Wave to Man-Made Climate Change

The report looked at trends from 1999 through 2017. Overdose death rates for 2018 are to be reported later this year. The urban and rural death rates were nearly identical for people ages 25 to 44 — the age group with the worst fatal overdose problem. “Drug epidemics tend to affect young people,” Ciccarone said.

But the urban rate was significantly higher in other age groups, particularly in those ages 45 to 64. Experts interviewed by The Associated Press said it’s not clear why the urban overdose death rates were markedly higher for middle-aged and older Americans. (VOA)

Next Story

Global Warming Could Change US Cities’ Climate by 2080- Study

The climate in New York City in 60 years could feel like Arkansas now.

US, New York
FILE - People cool off at the Unisphere in Queens, New York, July 2, 2018. VOA

The climate in New York City in 60 years could feel like Arkansas now. Chicago could seem like Kansas City and San Francisco could get a Southern California climate if global warming pollution continues at the current pace, a new study finds.

In 2080, North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh, could feel more like Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, while the nation’s capital will have a climate more akin to just north of the Mississippi Delta, if the globe stays on its current carbon pollution trend. Miami might as well be southern Mexico and the beautiful mornings in future Des Moines, Iowa, could feel like they are straight out of Oklahoma.

That’s according to a study Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications that tries to explain climate change better.

“The children alive today, like my daughter who is 12, they’re going to see a dramatic transformation of climate. It’s already under way,” said study lead author Matt Fitzpatrick. He’s an ecology professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Sciences in Frostburg, Maryland, which won’t quite measure up to its name with climate more like current day southern Kentucky.

New York, Climate
The climate in New York City in 60 years could feel like Arkansas now. Pixabay

But if the world cuts back on its carbon dioxide emissions, peaking around 2040, then New York’s climate can stay closer to home, feeling more like central Maryland, while Chicago’s climate could be somewhat like Dayton, Ohio’s.

Fitzpatrick looked at 12 different variables for 540 U.S. and Canadian cities under two climate change scenarios to find out what the future might feel like in a way a regular person might understand. He averaged the climate results from 27 different computer models then found the city that most resembles that futuristic scenario.

He put the results on a website that allows people to check how their nearest city could feel.

“Wow,” said Northern Illinois University climate scientist Victor Gensini, who wasn’t part of the study. “The science here isn’t new but a great way to bring impacts to the local scale user.”

Biggest change

The 540 cities on average move 528 miles (850 kilometers) to the south climate-wise, if carbon emissions keep soaring. If the world cuts back, the cities move on average 319 miles (514 kilometers).

The city that moves the most is Wasilla, Alaska, which if emissions aren’t cut back could feel like eastern Wisconsin, 11 degrees warmer in the summer. It’s a change of about 2,720 miles (4,379 kilometers).

ALSO READ: US Senate Program Approved Major Public Lands Bill, Revives Conservation Program

“Visualizations that tap into our own lived experiences make a lot of sense,” said Oregon State University climate scientist Kathie Dello, who wasn’t part of the study and doesn’t like what it shows for her region. “Telling people in historically mild Portland that the climate in the late 21st century will be more like the hot Central Valley of California is jarring.” (VOA)