Addiction is not limited to age groups, race, ethnicity or address. And while addiction can grip anyone at any time, it’s becoming an increasingly large, yet mostly ignored, issue in rural America.
A new survey conducted by Morning Consult reveals that just under half of rural Americans say they have been directly impact by opioid abuse, and a whopping 74% of farmers and farm workers have been impacted.
What’s more, three in four farmers say it would be easy for someone in their community to access opioids illegally, and 46% of rural adults say the same, as reported by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
“We’ve known for some time that opioid addiction is a serious problem in farm country, but numbers like these are heartbreaking,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Opioids have been too easy to come by and too easy to become addicted to.
“That’s why we are urging everyone we know to talk to their friends, family, co-workers – anyone at all they know or suspect needs help. And because opioid addiction is a disease, it’s up to all of us to help people who suffer from it and help them find the treatment they need. Government cannot and will not fix this on its own. Rural communities are strong. The strengths of our towns can overcome this crisis.”
In an article titled, “Why is the opioid epidemic hitting rural America especially hard?” Luke Runyon for NPR Illinois writes, “Rural areas and small cities across the country have seen an influx not only in the prevalence of prescription opioids, but illicit ones like heroin. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids were involved in more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, four times the number of opioid-involved deaths than in 2000. A recent University of Michigan study found rates of babies born with opioid withdrawal symptoms rising much faster in rural areas than urban ones.”
According to the article, the jobs most prevalent to rural America such as manufacturing, farming and mining have higher injury rates, leading to more pain and increased use of painkillers. Thus beginning the cycle of addiction.
Runyon says, “The CDC reports three out of four new heroin users report abusing prescription opioids prior to trying heroin. In the U.S., heroin-related deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2015, with 12,989 heroin deaths in 2015. Opioids, both heroin and prescription drugs, killed more people in 2015 than any year on record.”
For some, when ‘crunch’ time on the farm or ranch hits, it may be easier to pop a pill instead of going to rehab or dealing with the pain in other ways before addiction takes over. Of course, this issue isn’t isolated to rural Americans, but our communities need to be aware of these issues and offer support and resources for those impacted by this deadly addiction.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.