MONDAY, Feb. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — There is considerable race/ethnicity and income-level variation in the opioid epidemic, according to research published online Feb. 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Joseph Friedman, M.P.H., from the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues conducted a study using 2011 through 2015 records from California’s prescription drug monitoring program. The researchers found that the prevalence of opioid prescriptions varied nearly 300 percent across the race/ethnicity-income gradient. The proportion of adults receiving at least one opioid prescription each year was 44.2 percent in the quintile of zip code tabulation areas with the lowest-income/highest proportion-white population and 16.1 percent in the quintile with the highest-income/lowest proportion-white population.

In a research letter, Gery P. Guy Jr., Ph.D., M.P.H., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues examined opioid prescribing in 2015 and 2017. The researchers noted a 20.1 percent decrease in the number of opioids prescribed in the United States from 2015 to 2017, from 641.4 to 512.6 morphine milligram equivalents per capita. In 2017, considerable variation was seen in the number of opioids prescribed per capita at the county level. In a second research letter, Bennett Allen, from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and colleagues identified 1,487 overdose deaths in New York City: 37.0, 28.0, 31.0, and 4.0 percent among whites, blacks, Latinos, and others, respectively. Heroin and/or fentanyl overdose death rates were higher among whites in younger people and were higher among blacks in older people.

“Only through awareness of how the epidemic is affecting various communities can we hope to solve this public health emergency,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

Abstract/Full Text – Friedman Study
Abstract/Full Text – Research Letter 1 (subscription or payment may be required)
Abstract/Full Text – Research Letter 2 (subscription or payment may be required)
Editorial (subscription or payment may be required)

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