Nonmedical opioid (NMO) use has been linked to significant increases in rates of NMO morbidity and mortality in non-urban areas. While there has been a great deal of empirical evidence suggesting that physical features of built environments represent strong predictors of drug use and mental health outcomes in urban settings, there is a dearth of research assessing the physical, built environment features of non-urban settings in order to predict risk for NMO overdose outcomes. Likewise, there is strong extant literature suggesting that social characteristics of environments also predict NMO overdoses and other NMO use outcomes, but limited research that considers the combined effects of both physical and social characteristics of environments on NMO outcomes. As a result, important gaps in the scientific literature currently limit our understanding of how both physical and social features of environments shape risk for NMO overdose in rural and suburban settings and therefore limit our ability to intervene effectively. In order to foster a more holistic understanding of environmental features predicting the emerging epidemic of NMO overdose, this article presents a novel, expanded theoretical framework that conceptualizes “socio-built environments” as comprised of (a) environmental characteristics that are applicable to both non-urban and urban settings and (b) not only traditional features of environments as conceptualized by the extant built environment framework, but also social features of environments. This novel framework can help improve our ability to identify settings at highest risk for high rates of NMO overdose, in order to improve resource allocation, targeting, and implementation for interventions such as opioid treatment services, mental health services, and care and harm reduction services for people who use drugs.
Conceptualizing the socio-built environment: An expanded theoretical framework to promote a better understanding of risk for nonmedical opioid overdose outcomes in urban and non-urban settings
Journal of Urban Health, 99 (4), 701-716. doi: 10.1007/s11524-022-00645-3. PMCID: PMC9360264.