The influence of the opioid epidemic on firearm violence in Kentucky counties

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The influence of the opioid epidemic on firearm violence in Kentucky counties

Category: Behavior|Journal: Journal of Surgical Research|Author: A Bernard, D Davenport, D Oyler, S Dittmer|Year: 2021


The opioid crisis is a major public health emergency. Current data likely underestimate the full impact on mortality due to limitations in reporting and toxicology screening. We explored the relationship between opioid overdose and firearm-associated emergency department visits (ODED & FAED, respectively).



For the years 2010 to 2017, we analyzed county-level ODED and FAED visits in Kentucky using Office of Health Policy and US Census Bureau data. Firearm death certificate data were analyzed along with high-dose prescriptions from the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting records. Socioeconomic variables analyzed included health insurance coverage, race, median household earnings, unemployment rate, and high-school graduation rate.



ODED and FAED visits were correlated (Rho = 0.29, P< 0.01) and both increased over the study period, remarkably so after 2013 (P < 0.001). FAED visits were higher in rural compared to metro counties (P < 0.001), while ODED visits were not. In multivariable analysis, FAED visits were associated with ODED visits (Std. B = 0.24, P= 0.001), high-dose prescriptions (0.21, P = 0.008), rural status (0.19, P = 0.012), percentage white race (−0.28, P = 0.012), and percentage high school graduates (−0.68, P < 0.001). Unemployment and earnings were bivariate correlates with FAED visits (Rho = 0.42, P < 0.001 and −0.32, P < 0.001, respectively) but were not significant in the multivariable model.



In addition to recognized nonfatal consequences of the opioid crisis, firearm violence appears to be a corollary impact, particularly in rural counties. Firearm injury prevention efforts should consider the contribution of opioid use and abuse.