Opioid Deaths Rising Faster in Black Communities

According to a new study published in The American Journal of Public Health,  opioid related deaths are rising much faster in the Black population than other racial and ethnic groups. The study, conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found that the rate of opioid deaths in the Black population increased by 38 percent between 2018 and 2019, while the death rates for other racial and ethnic groups didn’t rise.

The researchers analyzed overdose data and death certificates from Kentucky, Ohio, Massachusetts and New York. Edwin Chapman, MD, an internal medicine and addiction medicine specialist who serves the Black community in Washington, D.C., told NPR that the study “points out the fact that we have to do something different, a more intensive intervention in the African-American community.”

Overdose deaths in Black communities are largely caused by fentanyl, NPR reported. The study’s authors said the study shows the need for an antiracist public health approach to address the crisis. As at 2017, black Americans were dying from overdoses at around the same rate as white Americans were in 2014 — which even then was considered a public health crisis.

According to the CDC, the opioid epidemic is still ravaging the country as drug overdose deaths remain generally high. Nearly 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. In 2019, 70,630 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States. The age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths increased by over 4% from 2018 (20.7 per 100,000) to 2019 (21.6 per 100,000). According to the center;


  • Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths. 72.9% of opioid-involved overdose deaths involve synthetic opioids.


  • Opioids were involved in 49,860 overdose deaths in 2019 (70.6% of all drug overdose deaths).


  • Drug overdose deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine are increasing with and without synthetic opioid involvement.


Drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids and methamphetamine have also shifted geographically with more communities reporting fatalities.


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