Healthy Behaviors and Choices (e.g. Fitness, Tobacco, Opioids, Nutrition)
Sharing Session - 30 Minutes
High rates of drug overdose mortality continue to afflict the United States. In 2017, life expectancy dropped for the United States for the second year in a row. Centers for Disease Control has identified drug overdose as a major driver of this troubling trend. For many years Harris County, TX, has seen only moderate increases in opioid mortality. In the past few years though there has been a substantial jump in mortality associated with drug overdoses. However, the high prevalence of poly-substance abuse in Harris County suggests that substance abuse response needs to focus on issues beyond opioids.
The growing rates of substance abuse mortality, and the complexity of the data, suggest that a one-size-fits-all approach to the opioid crisis is inapplicable. Instead, local health departments must identify the nuances and quirks of their data to better identify and respond to local trends of substance abuse within their community.
The opioid epidemic is a national public health emergency. However, for a multitude of reasons, the local profile of substance abuse will be more complex and nuanced than the national narrative. Given this, local health departments need support to conduct thorough epidemiological analysis of local data to better understand which local interventions will be most effective. Our report will be valuable to other local jurisdictions for two reasons: (1) we offer a template for analyzing mortality data from the medical examiner’s office and (2) we show the need to assess substance abuse from a holistic perspective and not as a purely opioid-associated health threat.