Importance: The causes of the opioid epidemic are incompletely understood. Objective: To explore the overlap between the geographic distribution of US counties with high opioid use and the vote for the Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential election. Design, Setting, and Participants: A cross-sectional analysis to explore the extent to which individual- and county-level demographic and economic measures explain the association of opioid use with the 2016 presidential vote at the county level, using rate of prescriptions for at least a 90-day supply of opioids in 2015. Medicare Part D enrollees (N = 3 764 361) constituting a 20% national sample were included. Main Outcomes and Measures: Chronic opioid use was measured by county rate of receiving a 90-day or greater supply of opioids prescribed in 2015. Results: Of the 3 764 361 Medicare Part D enrollees in the 20% sample, 679 314 (18.0%) were younger than 65 years, 2 283 007 (60.6%) were female, 3 053 688 (81.1%) were non-Hispanic white, 351 985 (9.3%) were non-Hispanic black, and 198 778 (5.3%) were Hispanic. In a multilevel analysis including county and enrollee, the county of residence explained 9.2% of an enrollee's odds of receiving prolonged opioids after adjusting for individual enrollee characteristics. The correlation between a county's Republican presidential vote and the adjusted rate of Medicare Part D recipients receiving prescriptions for prolonged opioid use was 0.42 (P < .001). In the 693 counties with adjusted rates of opioid prescription significantly higher than the mean county rate, the mean (SE) Republican presidential vote was 59.96% (1.73%), vs 38.67% (1.15%) in the 638 counties with significantly lower rates. Adjusting for county-level socioeconomic measures in linear regression models explained approximately two-thirds of the association of opioid rates and presidential voting rates. Conclusions and Relevance: Support for the Republican candidate in the 2016 election is a marker for physical conditions, economic circumstances, and cultural forces associated with opioid use. The commonly used socioeconomic indicators do not totally capture all of those forces.
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