Background: Given both the increased prevalence of natural disasters in recent years and the crippling opioid epidemic, identifying at-risk groups for substance abuse post-disaster is imperative to survivor mental health. The objective of this study was to examine the association between exposure to Hurricane Sandy and risk of opioid abusive behavior. Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis using data from two cross-sectional studies that examined the impact of Hurricane Sandy on mental health from October 2013- August 2016. Patient demographics, hurricane exposure and mental health history were obtained via self-report questionnaires. Opioid abuse risk was determined and categorized using adaptations from the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT). Multinomial logistic regression was used to examine the relationship between hurricane exposure and opioid abuse risk. Results: Data was available on 1,687 Hurricane Sandy survivors, the majority being female (59.3%), white (52.0%) and an average age of 46.1 years (std. 19.2). Approximately 9.0% of survivors were classified as being ‘High’ risk for opioid abuse. For every increase in total exposure reported, the odds of being classified as high risk was 1.09 greater (95% CI 1.05, 1.14) compared to low risk, after adjusting for covariates. Among personal exposures only (i.e. injury to self or family member), for every increase in reported exposure the adjusted odds of being classified as high risk was 1.25 times greater (95% CI 1.15, 1.37) compared to low risk. Conclusions: These findings suggest that exposure to a natural disaster, specifically personal exposures, are associated with increased risk for opioid abusive behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1241-1245
Number of pages5
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2021


  • Natural disasters
  • disaster planning
  • opioid abuse
  • opioid epidemic
  • opioids
  • substance abuse


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