Racial Disparities Seen in Rates for Opioid Overdose Deaths

From 2007 to 2019, opioid-stimulant deaths among Black people increased at more than three times the rate of White people

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TUESDAY, Feb. 15, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. overdose deaths involving opioids and stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, surged between 2009 and 2019, particularly among Black individuals, according to a study published online Feb. 8 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Tarlise Townsend, Ph.D., from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues used U.S. National Center for Health Statistics death certificate data (2007 to 2019) to compare state-level trends in overdose mortality due to opioids in combination with cocaine and/or methamphetamine and other stimulants (MOS) across racial/ethnic groups (non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic Asian American/Pacific Islander).

The researchers found that Black Americans experienced severe and worsening mortality due to opioids in combination with both cocaine and MOS, particularly in Eastern states. There was a 575 percent increase in cocaine/opioid mortality among Black people compared with 184 percent in White people. There was also a greater increase in MOS/opioid mortality observed among Black people compared with White people (16,200 versus 3,200 percent). Furthermore, there were sharp mortality increases for cocaine/opioid overdoses among Hispanic and Asian Americans.

"Because of structural and systemic racism, adequate access to harm reduction and evidence-based substance use disorder treatment services is lacking in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods," a coauthor said in a statement. "More state and federal funding for these programs are needed."

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