Over 500,000 people have died from drug overdoses and other drug-related causes in America between 2006 and 2015. The crisis is widely portrayed as a national epidemic affecting communities in every state. But a new study shows that these deaths are not randomly distributed across the country.

The study from Syracuse University suggests that in order to bring this number down, policy-makers need to focus on improving social and economic conditions in the counties where people struggle the most.

Researchers analyzed data over the years from a number of different national county surveys: the CDC cause of death files, the US Census, the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and the Northeast Centre for Rural Development.

After looking for associations between the drug mortality rates and economic, social and healthcare environments, researchers found that the average mortality rate was roughly 16 people per 100,000. But in certain counties, that rate reached as high as 100 people per 100,000.

The counties where rates were the highest are plagued with economic and family problems. Rates were lowest in counties with a lot of places of worship, recent immigrants, and economies that depended on government employment.

Overall, there wasn’t a significant difference between rural and urban areas, but the study's authors do note that some of the highest mortality rates were found in rural areas.

So basically, to fix the drug problem we have to fix the wealth disparity. Or maybe set up some information stations about the benefits of medicinal marijuana instead? Both are equally valid.

h/t EurekAlert