Original Article

Temporal Trends and Geographic Variations in Mortality Rates from Prescription Opioids: Lessons from Florida and West Virginia

Authors: Sarah A. Palumbo, BS, Charles H. Hennekens, MD, DrPH, Janet D. Robishaw, PhD, Robert S. Levine, MD


Objectives: To explore temporal trends and geographic variations in mortality from prescription opioids from 1999 to 2016.

Methods: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research Multiple Cause of Death files were used to calculate age-adjusted rates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) and create spatial cluster maps.

Results: From 1999 to 2016, counties in West Virginia experienced the highest overall mortality rates in the United States from prescription opioids. Specifically, from 1999 to 2004, the highest rate in West Virginia of 24.87/100,000 (95% CI 17.84–33.73) was the fourth highest in the United States. From 2005 to 2009, West Virginia experienced the highest rate in the United States, 60.72/100,000 (95% CI 47.33–76.71). From 2010 to 2016, West Virginia also experienced the highest rate in the United States, which was 90.24/100,000 (95% CI 73.11–107.36). As such, overall, West Virginia experienced the highest rates in the United States and the largest increases overall of ~3.6-fold between 1999 and 2004 and 2010 and 2016. From 1999 to 2004, Florida had no “hot spots,” but from 2006 to 2010 they did appear, and from 2011 to 2016, they disappeared.

Conclusions: These data show markedly divergent temporal trends and geographic variations in mortality rates from prescription opioids, especially in the southern United States. Specifically, although initial rates were high and continued to increase alarmingly in West Virginia, they increased but then decreased in Florida. These descriptive data generate hypotheses requiring testing in analytic epidemiological studies. Understanding the divergent patterns of prescription opioid-related deaths, especially in West Virginia and Florida, may have important clinical and policy implications.
Posted in: Public Health & Environmental Medicine2

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