The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

In Trump Country, Highest Prescription Opioid Rates

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

 

The two fevers gripping the land—opioid addiction and support for Donald Trump—are related. A new study from University of Texas researchers finds that counties with the highest opioid prescription rates were also more likely to favor Trump in the 2016 election.

The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open. The cross-sectional analysis examined data from the Census Bureau, Medicare Part D, and uselectionatlas.org to try to understand what has been deemed the “Oxy electorate.”

Focusing on legally available prescription pain relievers, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, codeine and morphine, but not illegal substances like heroin, the study examined Medicare Part D records for some 3.7 million people in 3,128 of the 3,142 counties in the U.S. Researchers designated people who had received at least one 90-day supply of prescription opioids as “high opioid users.”

Some 693 counties, typically with populations smaller than one million, had rates of opioid prescribing that were significantly higher than the national mean. Another 638 counties were identified as having significantly lower than average opioid use.

In those high opioid use counties, Trump won 59.96% of the vote. In the low opioid use counties, he won only 38.7% of the vote. (Trump won 45.92% of the overall vote.)

Those counties with both high opioid use and high Trump support were largely in the South, Midwest, and southern Appalachia.

The researchers found that the link between opioid use rates and Trump support was as strong as the link between other commonly cited socioeconomic factors—such as unemployment, household income, and education levels—and support for Trump. In the high opioid use counties, those other indicators also suggested high levels of social distress. Those counties had higher unemployment rates, fewer adults with a high school diploma, and lower household median incomes than the country as a whole.

Does that mean Trump got the opioid addict vote? No.

“With an ecological analysis, you can’t say that. And not only can’t you say it, but it’s probably not true,” said lead author Dr. James Goodwin, chair of geriatric medicine at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston.  “If you’re stoned out on opioids, you’re probably not voting,” he told Dallas News.

Instead, he and others suggested, high levels of opioid use tend to correlate with those other indicators of social distress, exacerbating feelings of being left behind or disenfranchised and making voters more likely to support candidates promising to shake things up.

“Trump tapped into something in that segment of voters,” said Katharine Neill Harris, a drug policy fellow at the Baker Institute, a nonpartisan think tank of Rice University in Houston.  “It’s about more than just prescriptions. “This is a very complex relationship, and representative of a deeper problem… of problems we are not addressing as a society,” she told Dallas News.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

 

 

Phillip Smith has been a drug policy journalist for the past two decades. Smith is currently a senior writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute

 

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Mark Esper

Youtube Screenshot

The precise nature of the Chinese balloon that drifted through the high atmosphere above the United States before being shot down by the American military off the coast of South Carolina is still not known, though the military seems confident it was a "surveillance" balloon and seemingly every conservative pundit put in front of a microphone believes it was carrying either some sort of zombie-producing spores or, worse, thousands of green M&M's to be scattered through the American landscape, turning our wildlife "woke."

What we do now know, however, is that these balloon flights seem to be a regular occurrence—and one that nobody has attempted to stoke a public panic over until now. The Department of Defense's own news site reports that Chinese balloons appeared over the United States at least three times during the Trump administration. None of those other balloons appear to have been intercepted. There were no Republican politicians posing with guns promising that they'd personally take care of them balloons if they floated over their neck of the woods. None of them appear to have scattered zombie spores, M&M's, or anything else.

Keep reading...Show less

George Santos

Youtube Screenshot

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) has faced a litany of accusations in his short time as a lawmaker. From financial mishandling, professional embellishments, and personal occurrences, Santos has been accused of lies across the board.

Now, a new analysis is breaking down the dynamics of compulsive lying. According to Business Insider, psychological experts have explained how compulsive lying is often a characteristic of a personality disorder.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}