Four North Carolina cities make top 25 list for opioid abuse


A report from a healthcare consulting company compares key factors in the opioid abuse problem in the United States, such as income, age, location and mental illness.

By Taylor Knopf

A 2016 report found that people who abuse opioids are more likely to live in the rural south than anywhere else in America.

Twenty-two of the top 25 cities for opioid abuse are in the southern states, according to the Health Care Information Society report Castlight. Wilmington is at the top of this list, with over 11.6% of the population abusing opiates.

Three other cities in North Carolina were on the top 25 list: Hickory at 9.9%; Jacksonville at 8.2%; and Fayetteville to 7.9 percent of residents using opiates.

During the same period, Wilmington, Hickory and Fayetteville were also in the top 25 list for the number of opioid prescriptions abused. According to the analysis, about 50 percent of all opioid prescriptions are abused in these three cities.

The Castlight report defines opioid abuse based on two criteria: a patient who received more than 90 days of opioid supply who also received an opioid prescription from four or more physicians between 2011 and 2015.

Other key findings from the Castlight report:

  • graph showing the ages of people who abuse opioids, with baby boomers having the highest rates
    Graphic courtesy Castlight

    People who abuse opioids cost their employers about twice as much in medical expenses each year as those who do not. On average, they cost $ 8,597 more than their non-consuming colleagues in 2015. Castlight estimates that opioid addiction costs American employers about $ 8 billion a year.

  • Castlight reported that people overuse one in three opioid prescriptions. Those who abuse opioids have twice the pain problems. The four main diagnoses are joint, neck, abdominal and back pain.
  • People over 50 are four times more likely to abuse opioids than those under 30, Castlight reported. About 7.4 percent of baby boomers abuse opioids, compared to just 2 percent of millennials.
  • Income makes the difference. About 6.3% of people living in low-income areas of the United States abuse opioids. These are places where the average income is less than $ 40,000. In areas where residents earn an average of $ 85,000 or more, about 2.7% of people abuse their opioid prescriptions.
  • People living in states with marijuana legalization laws are less likely to abuse opioids. About 2.8% of people living in these states abuse opioids, compared to 5.4% of people in states without marijuana laws.
  • People with mental illness are three times more likely to abuse opioids. About 8.6 percent of people with mental health problems abuse opioids, while only 3 percent of people do not abuse them.

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