A Pew Research Center study on drug addiction in America was published last week titled, “What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities” which quantified and compared data between urban, suburban, and rural communities in America. Data was collected through government records and the same survey questions answered by members of multiple communities about different aspects of life such as political perspectives, economic well-being, educational opportunities, etc. Although there were many, clear divides and stark gaps between the three types of communities, there was one question on the survey that seemed to yield similar answers amongst these varied demographics: “Drug addiction is (choose one: a major, a minor, or not a) problem in my local community.”
In all three community types, the percentage of residents who believe that their community has a problem (major or minor) with drug addiction were very close – 90% in rural counties, 87% in urban areas, and 86% in American suburbia. This data is reflective of the widespread opioid epidemic in the US that has rapidly grown out of hand in the past decade and has directly contributed to the increase of drug addiction in America.
That same survey question also gave us some insight on a glaring disparity between reality and perception of drug addiction in America. Only 35% of suburban community members perceive that their community has a major drug addiction problem in comparison to members of urban and rural areas who answered 50% and 46%, respectively. The reality of opiate addiction in the US at the moment is that suburban communities experience more overdose fatalities than urban and rural communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were 36,424 overdose deaths reported from American suburban counties compared to the 19,127 in urban counties and 8,036 in rural counties in 2016.
Opiate addiction has penetrated nearly every community in the United States. Drug addicts come in all shapes and sizes – no longer do we only picture a heroin addict as a minority living in urban poverty, but also as a white, suburban, young adult. Even with the population size and average age being factored into quantifying the CDC’s data about overdose deaths, suburban counties still had a higher average number of fatalities per 100,00 people: suburbia with 21.1, rural areas with 18.7, and urban counties with 18.5.
Fortunately, people are recognizing that there are drug addiction problems, regardless of whether perceived to be major or minor, within their communities. This awareness can lead to the preventative action of providing resources and support prior to overdose. No matter where we come from, drug addiction is a powerful and creeping force taking hold of life after life and must be stopped. By recognizing that we’re all just humans and unifying, we can create a force to be reckoned with against addiction in every type of community. If you or someone you love are struggling with drug addiction, reach out for help now, you don’t have to do this alone.