In 2017, overdoses in urban areas occurred more frequently than those in rural places, according to a new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. Published on August 2, 2019, the CDC’s data brief affirmed what has already become widespread knowledge about the overdose crisis: deaths involving fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine are driving the upward trend in urban areas.
People living in cities began fatally overdosing at higher rates than their rural counterparts in 2015, after eight years of being outpaced by them. For the most part, between 2007 and 2015, rural America’s higher rate of deaths was fueled by overdoses involving prescription opioids, like codeine and morphine. In 2017, deaths involving those opioids, as well as methamphetamine, were still occurring at a higher rate than in cities—it’s just that fentanyl-involved deaths in cities are now occurring at by-far the highest rate in comparison to any other fatal overdose by drug and geographic location.
Rural-living women died of fatal overdoses more frequently than women in cities, though the opposite was true for men.
The overdose crisis is changing. In July 2019, the CDC released preliminary data that shows fatal drug overdoses to have decreased for the first time since the 1990s, in 2018. Advocates cautioned against declaring it a victory because, in part, new issues are emerging, like the rising rates of meth-involved deaths. The shifting demographics of people most impacted by the overdose crisis is another development in need of sustained attention.
Graphic by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention