Overdose deaths skyrocket among people of color during the pandemic

“Racism — the root cause of health inequity — continues to be a major public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans and, as a result, affects the health of our entire nation,” said Debra Khoury, acting director of the CDC. deputy director and director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at a briefing on Tuesday.

The crisis is disproportionately affecting black Americans at both ends of life. Black youth ages 15 to 24 saw an 86 percent increase in overdose deaths, the largest spike of any age or racial group, while black men aged 65 and over were nearly seven times higher than white men.

At the same time, access to drug addiction treatment is severely limited. According to the report, blacks were half as likely as whites to receive drug addiction treatment.

And in areas with more affordable opioid treatment programs, opioid overdose rates were even higher than in areas with lower treatment availability, especially among Blacks, American Indians, and Alaska Natives.

“Just because services are available, it doesn’t mean those services are actually available,” Mbabazi Kariisa, a medical scientist with the CDC’s Overdose Prevention Division, said during the briefing.

After President Donald Trump Declared an Opioid Crisis public health emergency In 2017, U.S. drug overdose deaths continued to rise, hitting record highs in 2020 and 2021: 91,799 and estimated 107,622 deaths, respectively. The vast majority of deaths are from opioid overdose.

The pandemic, which has led people into social isolation and denial of medical care, seems to have further exacerbated the problem.

The opioid crisis has changed dramatically: Compared to its early days of prescription drug abuse, people often unknowingly take the potent synthetic fentanyl, produced by transnational criminal organizations, that has been mixed with other drugs, including cocaine, said Rahul Gupta, director of the White House National Administration. . Drug control policy, in an interview with POLITICO.

“This is not your uncle’s or your grandmother’s opioid crisis,” he said. The proliferation of synthetic fentanyl has made drugs more unpredictable and is “ravaging society and killing Americans,” he said.

Howry said that raising American awareness of the dangers of drug trafficking in culturally appropriate campaigns will be critical to combat trends in overdose deaths, as well as continuing efforts to improve access to treatment for all groups affected by substance use disorders.

The CDC has pointed to the many ways barriers to accessing substance use treatment can play a role in people’s lives, ranging from logistical issues such as coverage and geographic distribution of treatment centers to deeper issues such as ongoing stigmatization of substance use and long-standing distrust in the healthcare system.

“There are a number of factors that play a role, in addition to the availability of treatment services in a particular city or area, which further hinder [people] from accessing these resources,” Kariisa said.