UC doctoral student Andres Hernandez, the study’s lead author, said substance abuse disorders are complex, influenced by family history, economic welfare and mental health.
“For example, an individual with relatives who suffered substance abuse disorders is 10 times more likely to suffer from substance abuse,” Hernandez said.
The study identified 12 mostly urban parts of Ohio that were disproportionately affected by the epidemic. Many of these clusters were in southwest Ohio.
“This area has a history of high rates of drug consumption and illegal drug flow,” Hernandez said. “I think understanding the characteristics of the population with higher risk will result in better strategies to mitigate the epidemic.”
UC’s analysis suggests several phases of the epidemic, Cuadros said. Researchers believe the opiate epidemic began with a surge in legal prescription painkillers. Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from chronic pain that is so severe that it affects their daily activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But regulators and law enforcement began scrutinizing prescription opiates and passing laws limiting refills or reducing dosages. Some doctors were prosecuted.