Geo-mapping identifies hot spots for opioid use in Delaware: 5 study findings

Researchers from Delaware are using geo-mapping to identify hotspots of opioid abuse neighborhood by neighborhood across the state. The team will present a paper on their efforts at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Seattle.

Geo-mapping involves coding a map with colors and values assigned to specific regions. Information gathered in the map can be used to create comprehensive statistical analyses.

"Most research on the epidemic has focused on individual prescribers and patients, but that approach overlooks community-level and structural factors that might be important," said Tammy Anderson, PhD, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware in Newark. The current work is based on findings collected from Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2014. The research is expected to continue for four or five more years.

Here are five findings on opioid abuse in Delaware extracted from the geo-map.

1. Across the state, women are prescribed opioids at a higher rate than men.

2. Over the study period, patients over 50 experienced the largest increase in opioid prescriptions — this was especially true in the southern parts of the state.

3. Rural neighborhoods tended to have higher levels of opioid prescriptions.

4. Low socioeconomic status was associated with higher rates of opioid prescriptions, especially in patients over fifty.

5. While prescriptions for the extremely powerful opioid fentanyl remained steady for the time period, prescription rates for other opioids underwent a significant increase.

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