Heidi Larson, MD
The impact of the national opioid epidemic is especially significant in rural areas. Social and economic stressors that are prevalent in rural areas leave these communities more susceptible to opioid abuse and its devastating consequences. In fact, rural America is experiencing steadily increasing rates of death from opioid overdose that now surpass those seen in larger, more urban population centers. There is a strong link between opioid use disorders and issues common in rural areas such as poverty, inadequate insurance coverage, and lack of transportation. The strong, broad social networks found in small towns give those in rural communities more opportunities to access drugs, but may also be key to treating those affected by substance abuse. Providing treatment in the context of comprehensive, community-based primary and preventive care in rural communities helps to remove the stigma of the disease and allows communities to get at the heart of the problem and begin to solve the opioid crisis.
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