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The misuse and abuse of opioids has become a serious public health threat in the United States. The state of California has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic, with a noticeable increase in opioid-related fatalities and hospitalizations. This brief report paper aims to contribute to the growing literature by conducting a geospatial analysis of opioid dispensing patterns in California in 2021. The primary objective was to identify areas characterized by high-risk opioid dispending patterns and explore possible contributing factors. This retrospective study analyzed data from over 7 million records of opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions dispensed by outpatient pharmacies in California in 2021. A series of generalized linear regression models was employed to assess the impact of neighborhood characteristics on opioid recipients and high-risk opioid dispensing. The study defined high-risk opioid dispensing behavior as: (1) multiple provider episodes, (2) overlapping opioid prescriptions for seven or more days, (3) overlapping opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions for seven or more days, and (4) a high standardized dosage of opioid prescriptions per month. The study identified variables associated with high-risk opioid dispensing behaviors, including age, population density, income, and housing-related variables, as well as marital status and family-related variables. The study uncovered that there are noticeable disparities in opioid dispensing among different racial and ethnic groups within California. The findings indicated a correlation of high-risk dispensing indicators with certain demographic and socioeconomic factors. There was a substantial regional variation in opioid dispensing practices, with certain rural areas having higher rates of opioid prescriptions than urban areas.


This article was originally published in Healthcare, volume 11, in 2023.


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