Monday, April 09, 2018

The Opioid Overdose Mapping Tool


The University of Chicago has released a new interactive map that looks at the rates of drug overdose deaths in Appalachia. The national crisis in opioid addiction is particularly severe in Appalachia, where people are 55% more likely to die from a drug overdose than in the rest of the country.

The Overdose Mapping Tool helps to identify overdose hot-spots in Appalachia and allows you to explore the underlying socio-economic and demographic factors which may play a part in creating these hot-spots. The map provides a choropleth view of the overdose mortality rate in each Appalachian county.

Using the map sidebar you can choose to also view a number of socio-economic and demographic county data on the map. This allows you to observe the often strong correlation between poverty and unemployment rates with overdose mortality rates. Low college attendance and high rates of disabilities also seem to be common in the counties with the highest overdose mortality rates.


Last year BuzzFeed mapped the US Counties Prescribing Way More Opioids Than Others. The map shows that doctors are prescribing opioids heavily in Appalachia, particularly in the most southern counties. However the map reveals that there are many other regions in the country where opioid prescription rates are also very high.

The BuzzFeed article quotes the CDC as saying that the higher prescribing counties are often marked by higher rates of arthritis, diabetes and unemployment. It therefore looks like some of the same socio-economic factors are at play in U.S. prescription rates as in the overdose mortality rates in Appalachia.


Last year U.S. Senator for Utah Mike Lee also released an interactive map showing Unintentional Opioid Overdose Deaths. The map uses mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The senator's Leaflet map shows the rise in opioid overdose deaths at county level from 1979 to 2015. Using the timeline you can select to view the number of overdose deaths for any five year period in these years. If you press the play button you can view an animated loop of the data from 1979 to 2015.

You can click on a county on the map to view the county death rate per 100,000 inhabitants for any of the mapped five year periods. Some counties are grayed out on the map for confidentiality reasons. This is where the number of deaths is so small that the deceased could be easily identified.
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