Urban vs. rural differences in prescription opioid misuse among adults in the United States: informing region specific drug policies and interventions

Int J Drug Policy. 2015 May;26(5):484-91. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.10.001. Epub 2014 Oct 23.


Background: In the United States, prescription opioid misuse (POM) has increased dramatically over the past two decades. However, there are still questions regarding whether rural/urban differences in adult POM exist, and more important, which factors might be driving these differences.

Methods: Using data from the 2011 and 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, we conducted unadjusted and adjusted binary logistic regression analyses to determine the association between metropolitan status and POM.

Results: We found that urban adults were more likely to engage in POM compared to rural adults because of their higher use of other substances, including alcohol, cannabis, and other illicit and prescription drugs, and because of their greater use of these substances as children.

Conclusion: This study fills an important gap in the literature by not only identifying urban/rural differences in POM, but by also pointing out factors that mediate those differences. Because patterns and predictors of POM can be unique to geographic region, this research is critical to informing tailored interventions and drug policy decisions. Specifically, these findings suggest that interventions should be aimed at urban illicit drug users and adults in manual labor occupations.

Keywords: Drug policy; Interventions; Poly-drug use; Prescription opioid misuse; Prevention; Rural and urban drug use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Policy Making
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / prevention & control
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult