President Donald Trump has ordered the creation of a new federal commission to halt America’s opiate epidemic (a move critics have said is redundant and doesn’t address funding for addiction treatment and prevention). He might want to start by focusing on 15 cities with the highest rate of opioid abuse in the United States.
Castlight Health, a health care information company, used anonymous data on medical and pharmacy claims to determine which parts of the U.S. the opioid crisis hit hardest. The information it uncovered was alarming.
Overall, nearly one-third of all opioid prescriptions are being abused. Those who misuse painkillers, such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet, incur health costs for employers that are almost double that of non-addicted people ($19,450 versus $10,853 per year). Collectively, opioid prescription abuse costs companies $8 billion a year, on top of $10 billion in lost productivity. Those sky-high numbers don’t even touch on the staggering human cost of opioid addiction. More than 183,000 people in the U.S. have died since 1999 from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the CDC.
The problem of opioid addiction cuts across racial, geographic, age, and class lines, but there’s no denying some communities have been hit much harder than others. Castlight’s data revealed opioid abusers are more likely to live in lower-income areas and in the rural South. Baby boomers are also much more likely than millennials to abuse prescription opiates. Interestingly, states with legal medical marijuana had lower abuse rates than those where it’s illegal.
Let’s take a closer look at the 15 cities abusing opioids the most.
15. Odessa, Texas
Eight percent of people who receive opioid prescriptions in Odessa, Texas, were misusing the drugs, according to Castlight’s analysis. Nationwide, 4.5% of people whose doctors prescribe them opiates go on to abuse the drugs. Recently, Texas became one of nearly three dozen states where naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids and can be used to stop an overdose, is available without a prescription.
Next we head east …