Giving Compass’ Take:
• Research from the Maine Rural Health Research Center highlights the unique struggles of the rural opioid epidemic.
• Which interventions are universal? Which are geographically limited?
• Learn about a role for philanthropy in addressing the opioid crisis.
The current opioid epidemic is a complex problem reflecting the many challenges inherent in our healthcare system. Opioids* are a class of prescription medications providing significant benefits to patients with acute, severe pain due to intractable, chronic pain that is not adequately managed with more conservative methods, traumatic injuries, and bone and other cancers.
Opioid addiction is associated with several factors, including expanded use of opioids beyond the narrower scope of conditions for which they are most appropriately suited, early failure to acknowledge the risks of prescription opioids, slow adoption of evidence-based opioid prescribing guidelines by health care professionals, and growing patient demand for opioids. Moreover, expanded prescription opioid use is directly linked to increased heroin use, as the cost of heroin has declined and the supply has increased relative to prescription opioids.
Recent research conducted by the Maine Rural Health Research Center suggests that the prevalence of non-medical, prescription opioid and heroin use in the past year was slightly higher among urban than rural residents. Rural users, however, tend to have multiple socioeconomic vulnerabilities that negatively impact their ability to access and successfully complete treatment; rural past-year use rates were significantly higher than urban past-year use rates among those who were under age 20, unmarried, with low educational attainment, no insurance coverage, and low-income, corroborating findings from other studies. At the same time, rural travel barriers (e.g., costs, lack of public transportation, long travel distances, weather) exacerbate access challenges
Read the full research article by John A. Gale, Anush Y. Hansen and Martha Elbaum Williamson about Opioid treatment from Maine Rural Health Research Center.
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