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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Neighborhood Matters for Fentanyl-Involved Overdose Deaths

Fentanyl overdoses cluster geographically more than non-fentanyl overdoses, according to a Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health study. The findings suggest that fentanyl-involved overdoses are concentrated in resource deprived neighborhoods over and above what data show for opioid and polydrug overdoses. Findings are in AJPH.

The researchers examined geographic trends in the distribution of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths in Cook County, Illinois, the second most populous U.S. county.

“Much of the work has used large geographic units such as zip codes or counties on a national scale, noted Dr. Elizabeth Nesoff, postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology and first author. “Our research using census block data provides a window into the broader neighborhood context not fully explained by demographics.”

The odds of a fentanyl-involved overdose were significantly increased for men, Blacks, Latinos, and younger individuals as well as resource deprived neighborhoods. For example, a larger proportion of non-fentanyl overdoses were White, 53 percent, vs. 43 percent fentanyl overdoses.

“Our study shows that fentanyl does not follow the same geographic distribution as that of the general drug-using population,” said associate professor Dr. Silvia Martins, senior author. “This was supported by the fact that population density was not a significant factor.”

Earlier research by epidemiology chair Dr. Charles Branas, and a study co-author, showed that neighborhood risk factors for drug use could be modified through targeted infrastructure improvements. “Vacant lot remediation has been shown to significantly reduce gun violence and improve residents’ mental health in cities; this also presents a possible strategy for reducing drug use in resource deprived neighborhoods.”

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