Prescription drug abuse is an ever-increasing problem across the United States. The accessibility of pills as well as the way they alter brain and body functions over extended use are both contributing factors to their continued growth in use. Rural areas are especially afflicted by this prescription drug abuse epidemic for several reasons. While there haven’t been any comprehensive studies on why rural areas are so affected, one can hypothesize various reasons. Here are three factors that influence the increase in prescription drug abuse in rural communities.
More Opiate Prescriptions in Rural Areas
Data collected over the last two decades have shown a vast difference in opiate prescriptions between rural and urban communities. Many conclusions can be drawn from this statistic, with the most obvious being that an increase in prescriptions directly equates to an increase in availability on the street. The reasons for this are varying to some degree. One possible factor has to do with the aggressive nature of marketing the prescription medications in rural areas. Drugs, especially OxyContin, have been targeted at states with large rural areas such as Kentucky, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. The reasons for this marketing campaign are largely speculative, but it may have to do with bigger populations of elderly people with chronic pain. Other data shows an increase in prescriptions for individuals working in labor intensive occupations such as mining or construction, jobs that are common to rural areas.
Close-knit Communities with Social and Kinship Networks
Family and friends are more influential in a rural setting when compared to urban ones. Most individuals in rural areas report knowing the people in their social networks for longer and are greatly influenced by their actions or opinions. In fact, a large majority of people in rural communities are related to each other. This can lead to peer pressure that is substantially greater and tougher to ignore than that seen between acquaintances. Also, rural family structures are usually larger and more widespread, creating greater access to people with prescription medication and distribution networks. These distribution networks are supplied by legitimate prescriptions filled by family members or close friends and the drugs are then made available to illegal networks. These theories are highly speculative, but when looked at closely they do make a certain amount of sense as to how prescription drug abuse starts.
Economic Stress Related to Rural Living
Although bad economic times affect both rural and urban communities, they have a larger impact on rural areas. Stressors related to unemployment, poverty, or a general lack of industry have been documented as directly influencing the use of illicit drugs. Since drugs like heroin and cocaine aren’t as available in rural areas, people turn to what is close at hand. Also, stress and boredom due to unemployment or limited career opportunities lead some individuals to drug use. Since prescription pills are readily available and easy to acquire in these settings, many turn to them in order to relieve stress and deal with general hardships.
The trend in rural communities for prescription drug abuse is still increasing. Until changes in how these pills are controlled and a concerted effort to educate people about their dangers is made, this trend is sure to continue. If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug addiction please call our helpline at 800-890-3586, and let us show you the road to recovery.