A new study conducted by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health has found that deaths caused by analgesic overdose, such as oxycodone and codeine, is more likely among economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with a prevalence of high divorce, single-parent homes than deaths by unintentional causes.
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 overdose deaths. 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.