University research explores rural Ohio opioid abuse

University research explores rural Ohio opioid abuse

Ohio Northern University researchers maintain rural areas such as northwestern Ohio sustain disproportionate opioid abuse versus urban centers, experiencing higher rates of opioid-related overdoses and deaths.

Ohio Northern University faculty members Ross Kauffman and Keith Durkin pursued an interdisciplinary approach to the multifaceted problem opioid abuse issue. Their resulting paper was published in the Ohio Journal of Public Health.

Kauffman initially became involved with the opioid abuse exploration effort while spearheading the Northern Opioid Alliance, officials said, indicating the initiative sought to utilize ONU’s resources to address the problem in the region.

“Much of my prior work focused on tobacco control,” Kauffman said. “There are intriguing overlaps in the predictors for nicotine and opioid addiction, especially the growing body of evidence linking adverse childhood experiences like abuse to addiction in adulthood.”

Durkin said the matter is now a non-metropolitan plague that has moved from the city to rural areas.

“One factor may be that there is more manual labor, as well as a strong work ethic, in farm settings. Individuals will often seek pain relief to keep working, and this is how opioid abuse often begins,” he said, adding approximately 7.7 million pain pills were prescribed in Hardin County during a recent six-year period. “We found a very strong link between emotional problems and prescription opioid abuse among kids in juvenile drug court. While we found a declining trend in pain pill abuse, we found a very troubling increase in emotional problems by youths referred to the drug court. In fact, emotional problems have risen 89.5 percent on average since 2010.”