HealthDay News — Automotive assembly plant closures from 1999 to 2016 were associated with increases in opioid overdose mortality, according to a study published online Dec. 30 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Atheendar S. Venkataramani, M.D., Ph.D., from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a county-level difference-in-differences study among adults aged 18 to 65 years in 112 manufacturing counties located in 30 commuting zones to examine the extent to which automotive assembly plant closures were associated with opioid overdose mortality rates. Twenty-nine manufacturing counties in 10 commuting zones were exposed to an automotive plant closure, while 83 manufacturing counties in 20 commuting zones were unexposed. Changes were examined from Jan. 1, 1999, to Dec. 31, 2016.

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The researchers observed a significant increase in opioid overdose mortality with automotive assembly plant closures. Compared with unexposed counties, in exposed counties, automotive assembly plant closures were associated with an increased mortality rate of 8.6 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 individuals five years after a plant closure, an 85 percent increase relative to the mortality rate in unexposed counties. The largest increases in opioid overdose mortality were observed among non-Hispanic white men aged 18 to 34 and 35 to 65 years (20.1 and 12.8 deaths per 100,000, respectively) in analyses stratified by age, sex, and race/ethnicity. Similar patterns of opioid overdose mortality were observed for prescription versus illicit drugs.

“These findings highlight the potential importance of declining economic opportunity as a factor associated with the U.S. opioid overdose crisis,” the authors write.

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