Opioid crisis nearly as serious as economy for rural Americans, study finds

Rural Americans view opioid or other drug addiction as the most serious problem facing their communities, on nearly the same level as economic issues, a study published in JAMA Network Open found.

Researchers conducted two telephone surveys of adults living in the rural U.S. The first survey was conducted between June 6 and Aug. 4, 2018, and the second survey was conducted Jan. 31 to March 2, 2019. The 2018 survey included 1,300 respondents and the 2019 survey included 1,405 respondents.

Twenty-five percent of rural U.S. residents identified opioid or other drug addiction or abuse and 21 percent pointed to economic concerns as the most serious problems facing their local communities. Forty-nine percent of rural adults said they personally know someone who has had opioid addiction.

When asked about financial and economic issues, 55 percent of respondents rated their local economy as only fair or poor, and 49 percent said they would have difficulty paying off an unexpected $1,000 expense.

Thirty-two percent reported having problems paying medical bills.

These findings show that "in today's economically stretched rural United States, opioid or other drug addiction or abuse has emerged as an equal problem with economic concerns," study authors concluded.

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