Some Areas With High Drug Overdose Death Rates Don’t Have Much Drug Trafficking

Two bricks of cocaine wrapped in foil beside a heap of cocaine.

A new study finds some of the nation’s areas with high rates of drug overdose deaths do not have a corresponding high rate of drug trafficking. This suggests drugs are passing through counties with high rates of drug trafficking without affecting the death rates of people in those regions, the researchers said. Instead, those drugs are causing overdose deaths in other parts of the country, CBS News reports.

The researchers concluded that while federal resources to combat drug trafficking are appropriately targeted at many areas in the United States that are most affected, rates are also rapidly rising in some areas not covered by the federal government’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. HIDTA was created by Congress in 1988 to provide 31 high drug-trafficking areas of the U.S. with coordinated law enforcement resources dedicated to reducing trafficking and production.

“Our research reveals several potential new drug overdose problem regions that warrant careful attention, as they may not correspond to areas covered by federal resources to combat drug trafficking,” study co-author Jeanine Buchanich, Deputy Director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Occupational Biostatistics and Epidemiology, said in a news release.

In the journal Preventive Medicine, the researchers said some counties with high drug trafficking, including areas in Ohio and West Virginia, had big increases in drug overdose deaths. But while western Pennsylvania has one of the fastest-growing rates of drug overdoses in the country, the region does not have a lot of drug trafficking. Norfolk, Massachusetts also is not a high-trafficking area but had large increases in overdose deaths.

The study found the counties with the biggest increases in drug overdose death rates were located in southern Michigan, eastern Ohio, western and eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, much of southeastern New York and coastal New England.

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