Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Erin Hofmann (Committee Chair) Gabriele Ciciurkaite (Co-Committee Chair)


Erin Hofmann


Gabriele Ciciurkaite


Eric Reither


Guadalupe Marquez-Velarde


Sydney O’Shay


Opioid overdose deaths are not equally distributed across the United States. While some areas have a less severe problem with opioid abuse, others face serious challenges, which are affected by various social factors. To address that question, in Chapter 1, I investigate how opioid mortality trends differ according to opioid types, race, and region to identify susceptible populations and areas. In Chapter 1, I contend that synthetic opioid is a main trigger for the current opioid epidemic and that the epidemic is concentrated among blacks and in the Eastern United States. Next, the following studies examine how varying social vulnerabilities contribute to synthetic opioid mortality among counties; and how different kinds of occupational and industrial composition contribute to changing synthetic opioid mortality rates over time in a specific county. In Chapter 2, I look at how this social vulnerability, which is due to minority status and language, is associated with a decrease in mortality rates. However, this effect is lowered over time, and it is weakest in the Midwest and Northeast. Also, the adverse effect of low socioeconomic status significantly contributes to the synthetic opioid epidemic in the Midwest. In Chapter 3, I contend that primary industries and the wholesale trade industry have helped increase synthetic opioid mortality rates in the Midwest and Northeast. Additionally, professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services industries have aided in the increase in deaths caused by synthetic opioid throughout the United States.