Unique Maps Help Us Grasp the Extent of Losses from Addiction

We all see news headlines or articles on the internet about a local person lost to an overdose or a celebrity going to rehab. But it can be hard to get a grip on what’s really happening across this country. What areas are struggling the most? What are the other social or economic factors that relate to drug losses? A mapping engineer named Jeremiah Lindemann developed a unique way to shed light on this epidemic using mapping software.

ArcGIS

Jeremiah is an engineer for Esri, a company that developed mapping software named ArcGIS, a geographic information systems platform. While corporations, utilities and governments use this platform to map information vital to their operations, Jeremiah began to use it to illustrate American losses to drugs and addiction. Jeremiah lost his younger brother to drug abuse several years ago and, until he began to develop these maps, he struggled to find a way to contribute to an improvement of this situation.

One unique map is Jeremiah’s labor of love: A map that celebrates the lives of loved ones lost to drug-related problems. They come from every corner of the country. Most were lost to overdoses but a few died in drug-related accidents. Families who come across this map are adding stories and images of their loved ones. The count now stands at more than 400 stories.

Image from website where families share stories of their loved ones lost to drugs.

Governments, Organizations and Educational Projects Add Their Maps

States, utilities, organizations and educational projects use this mapping platform for a wide variety of uses, some also related to our problems with drugs. Jeremiah has not only used it as a forum for families, he has added a variety of other revealing and educational maps on the impact of drugs and addiction. Anyone, anywhere, can make use of these maps to get a better grasp of the scope of our drug problem. Here are some relevant examples:

Opioid Overdose Map, courtesy https://opioidepidemic.maps.arcgis.com
  • Connecticut locations of overdose deaths in 2014.
  • The growth of drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania between 1999 and 2015.
  • Overdose rates of New Mexico showing especially high overdose rates in Espanola, Chimayo and Northern Albuquerque.
  • This map offers an easy comparison of social factors like poverty, Hispanic, White or Native American population, drug overdose rates, suicide and other measurements as they relate to New Mexico drug losses.
  • This map of drug poisoning incidents clearly shows the impact of drugs on the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Oklahoma, Florida and Gulf Coast, New Mexico and the zone encompassed by Appalachia and Ohio.
  • County-by-county information on the volume of opioid (painkiller) claims to Medicare reveals where prescribing has been particularly high.

    Why Are These Maps Important?

    For parents, for government officials, even for those who work in rehab or drug prevention—it can be hard to grasp the enormity of the threat. These maps help bring the losses and the dangers home. If they spur greater interest, understanding and, most importantly, action, then they are doing an incredibly valuable job.

AUTHOR

Karen

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.