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Opioid Overdose Death Rates Worsening for Non-Hispanic Blacks

No significant change seen in overdose death rates overall from 2018 to 2019, but rate increased among non-Hispanic Blacks

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MONDAY, Sept. 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Disparities in opioid overdose deaths are worsening by race/ethnicity, with an increase among non-Hispanic Blacks versus non-Hispanic Whites from 2018 to 2019, according to a study published online Sept. 9 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Marc R. Larochelle, M.D., M.P.H., from the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues used state death certificate records to calculate opioid overdose death rates per 100,000 adult residents of the 67 Healing Communities Study communities for 2018 and 2019. The ratio of 2019 to 2018 rates was calculated. By calculating a ratio of rate ratios (RRR) for each racial/ethnic group compared to non-Hispanic White individuals, the changes by race/ethnicity were compared.

The researchers found that opioid overdose death rates for 2018 and 2019 were 38.3 and 39.5 per 100,000, respectively, with no significant change from 2018 to 2019 (rate ratio, 1.03; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.98 to 1.08). Compared with non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks had an estimated 40 percent increase in the opioid overdose death rate (RRR, 1.40; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.22 to 1.62). No change was seen among other race/ethnicities.

"The more local and timely data communities have access to, the more tailored their approach can be for interventions," Larochelle said in a statement. "We know there are disparities in implementation of effective strategies for reducing opioid overdose deaths, but early access to better data like these allows communities to address equity with improved intentionality."

One author disclosed receiving funds for research on opioid use disorder treatment paid to his institution from OptumLabs.

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