The Influence of the Opioid Epidemic on Firearm Violence in Kentucky Counties

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3 Scopus citations


Background: 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). Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-193
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • Emergency department
  • Firearm violence
  • Opioids
  • Rural
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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