Understanding the Opioid Crisis in Iowa through Data

Presented by:
Emily Poehlein (Vassar College) & Jan Figueroa (University of Iowa)

The issue of opioid abuse and overdose has become a nation-wide epidemic in recent years, resulting in a tremendous economic burden of an estimated $78.5 billion per year. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 115 people in the United States die from opioid overdose daily. Prescription patterns of legal opioids after surgeries and other medical procedures have contributed to the epidemic, as previous studies have observed that patients who are prescribed doses exceeding 50 Morphine Milligram Equivalent (MME) per day have twice the risk of overdose than those who are not prescribed doses as high. As a preliminary exploration of the issue of high-dosage prescriptions in the state of Iowa, MME per day rates by surgery category were summarized and visually mapped using the INLA package in R, which is an alternative approach to the Bayesian Markov Chain Monte-Carlo method for inference. Graphical hot spots for high dosage prescription rates in the state were located and visualized, showing intensity of high dosage prescriptions throughout the state of Iowa. We also consider adjusting for demographic covariates such as age, race, and population size.