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Drug Overdose in Rural America

Updated April 21, 2023

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, resulting in approximately 52,000 deaths in 2015. Rates of drug overdose deaths are rising in rural areas, surpassing rates in urban areas. Although the percentage of people reporting illicit drug use is lower in rural areas, the effects of use appear to be higher. The percentage of people with drug use disorders among those reporting past-year illicit drug use in rural areas was similar to that in urban areas.

Most overdose deaths occurred in homes, where rescue efforts may fall to relatives who have limited knowledge of or access to naloxone and overdose follow-up care. Understanding differences in illicit drug use, illicit drug use disorders, and drug overdose deaths in urban and rural areas can help public health professionals to identify, monitor, and prioritize responses.