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Opioid Misuse 
in Rural America

 

In 2018, fewer Americans died of drug overdoses (67,367 deaths) than the year before (70,237 deaths) for the first time in more than 20 years.  The drug overdose death rate was lower in 2018 than in 2017 for 15 states. This news is a source of encouragement but there are still far too many Americans dying from drug overdoses and not all states are seeing decreases.  We must continue our efforts in all aspects of our fight against substance use disorder and the opioid epidemic.

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CDC map showing the number of age-adjusted rates of drug overdose deaths by state, USA, 2018

Community Toolbox

  • An interactive data tool that empowers community leaders to assess the causes and impact of opioid misuse in their community.
    Use the Tool
  • A listing of Federal programs that can be used to build resilient communities and address opioid misuse in rural communities.
    Download the Guide (PDF, 1.7 MB)
  • The Rural Community Action Guide includes background information, recommended action steps from a diversity of stakeholders, and promising practices for a wide range of issues related to drug addiction in rural America.

    Download the Rural Community Action Guide (PDF, 4.2 MB)

    The practices described in this supplement have been built and launched by State and local leaders across the country. These activities were identified as promising practices to showcase because they are something that another community can replicate or use to inspire their own action.
    Download the Rural Community Action Guide: Promising Practices (PDF, 1.1 MB)


In October 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the rates of drug overdose deaths are rising in rural areas, surpassing rates in urban areas. In addition, a December 2017 survey by the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation found that as many as 74 percent of farmers have been directly impacted by the opioid crisis.

Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump, USDA is approaching the opioid crisis with a dedicated urgency. The opioid epidemic is devastating to its victims and their families. It has a compounding ripple effect throughout communities, affecting quality of life, economic opportunity, and rural prosperity. No corner of our country has gone untouched by the opioid crisis, but the impact of this issue on small towns and rural places has been particularly significant.

USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities on a number of fronts:

  • Through program resources for prevention, treatment, and recovery opportunities for those in need. See the many ways your community can partner with USDA (PDF, 528 KB) to meet immediate needs in this fight.
  • Through program resources to help rural communities address many of the deeper, systemic, and long-term issues making these places vulnerable to the opioid crisis in the first place. Our infographic illustrates (PDF, 4.8 MB) how USDA can help rural communities respond to the opioid epidemic by addressing some of the root causes.
  • Through the creation of essential tools for rural leaders to use to understand the impact and cause(s) of the crisis in their community; and tools to understand what federal resources are available to help support grassroots strategies to address this crisis.

What's Working in Your State

View an interactive map of state projects and watch prevention, treatment, and recovery stories.

See What's Working

What’s Working in Your Town?

Tell us what actions your rural community is taking in prevention, treatment and recovery.

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Policy Information