Aug. 2 (UPI) -- More people died from drug overdoses in urban compared to rural areas, a new study shows.
Drug overdose deaths in urban counties surpassed those in rural counties in 2016 and continued through 2017, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The report provided a breakdown of drug overdoses throughout the United States by age, gender and drug type.
In all, urban counties saw 20.0 deaths per 100,000 in 2016 and 22.0 in 2017 compared to rural counties that had 18.7 in 2016 and 20.0 in 2017.
Going against this overall trend, more females died from drug overdoses in rural counties compared to urban counties. That contrasts with a higher rate of male deaths in urban areas than rural communities.
In 2017, overdose death rates were highest among urban dwellers between ages 15 and 24, 45 and 64, and 65 and over. However, rates were comparable in urban and rural counties for people between ages 0 and 14 and 25 and 44.
Between 1999 and 2003, urban counties had higher drug overdose death rates compared to rural counties. That trend stayed consistent from 2004 to 2006. Then overdose deaths in rural counties surpassed urban counties from 2007 and 2015.
In both communities, synthetic opioids were overwhelmingly responsible for overdose deaths in both urban and rural counties.
"In 2017, the rates of drug overdose deaths involving heroin, synthetic opioids other than methadone, and cocaine were higher in urban counties than in rural counties," Holly Hedegaard, a researcher at National Center for Health Statistics, told UPI. "In contrast, the rates of drug overdose deaths involving natural and semisynthetic opioids and involving psychostimulants with abuse potential were higher in rural counties than in urban counties."
Overall, more than 70,000 people died of drug use in 2017. Overdose deaths, however, fell by 5.1 percent in 2018.