There are some huge disparities among addiction rates in different states. For example, in West Virginia, about 52 out of every 100,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2016, the highest rate in the US, while in Virginia, the rate was just under 17 in 100,000. That’s still relatively high, but the disparity is huge, especially for neighboring states. Why have some states been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic?
The first major factor is that some states have more people working in dangerous jobs. These are typically labor intensive jobs with high risk of injury. These include mining, timbering, construction, commercial fishing, and heavy industry. Workers in these jobs often have to work long hours with soreness and minor injuries. Reliance on alcohol or painkillers can help them get through the week. Often, when workers are injured, they have been given opioid painkillers so they can keep working. These are typically prescribed by worksite doctors as a quick fix, and it often leads to dependence since the worker doesn’t get the treatment and rest that would allow the injury to heal. Even worse, these jobs often require workers to be on the road for weeks at a time. People working mining, timbering, construction, or oil drilling are often doing dangerous work away from friends and family. That means they have little emotional support for weeks at a time while doing difficult work. This lack of social support is another major risk factor for addiction.
Another problem is that certain jobs are disappearing quickly, and if these jobs happen to be disappearing from your state, you may see higher rates of addiction. This is especially the case for states that relied heavily on manufacturing, such as the upper midwest, and mining, such as Appalachia. Addiction rates tend to correlate with unemployment. Studies show that unemployed people are about twice as likely to have a substance use problem as fully employed people. The relationship is not strictly one way. Some people do lose their jobs because of addiction, but your risk of developing addictions, especially to alcohol, increases the longer you are unemployed. This may be because unemployment is also highly correlated with depression. Making this problem even more difficult, the longer you are unemployed, the harder it becomes to get a job.
Difficulty getting treatment.
One consequence of not having a job is often not having health insurance. That makes it difficult for some people to get effective treatment because they are concerned they won’t be able to pay for it. Also, many areas where addiction rates are highest are isolated rural areas where there aren’t many treatment options available. West Virginia, for example, is both sparsely populated and mountainous, making travel to other areas slower. Fortunately, many states are starting to address this issue with hub-and-spoke models of outreach, telemedicine, and pushing to get rural doctors more involved in addiction treatment.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.