The spike in drug overdose rates during the pandemic is reflected in growing racial inequality

The pandemic’s devastating impact on drug overdose deaths in the United States has hit people of color hardest, with rates among young blacks rising the most, according to a new report. federal report released on Tuesday and analyzed overdose data by race, age, and income.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total number of drug overdose deaths increased by 30 percent between 2019 and 2020. Black deaths increased 44 percent, more than double the rate. with mortality rates among whites (22 percent) or Hispanics (21 percent). Deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives increased by 39 percent.

As a percentage of the population, in 2020, deaths among Blacks are higher than for any other racial or ethnic group – 39 per 100,000, compared with 31 for whites, 36 for American Indians and Alaska Natives and 21 in Hispanics.

“The disproportionate increase in drug overdose deaths among blacks and American Indians and Alaska Natives may be due in part to this,” said Dr. Debra Houry, acting deputy director of the CDC. health inequities, such as unequal access to treatment and substance use treatment,” said Dr. Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director of the CDC.

The racial breakdown is based on data from Washington, DC, and the 25 states that completed the analysis. The study included data from several states where overdose death rate increased, such as Georgia, Kentucky, and Maine, but not from other places with high rates like Florida, New York, and Michigan. However, the trends they see in this data reflect statistical racial breakthroughs across the country, the CDC researchers said.

Nationwide, drug overdose deaths continue to rise since 2020, despite speed has slowed down a bit.

The impact on different races becomes even more significant when age is included. In 2020, the rate of overdose deaths among men 65 and older is nearly seven times higher in Black men than in white men. In blacks aged 15 to 24, drug overdose death rates increased by 86% between 2019 and 2020.

The study’s authors said the deaths were mainly due to illegally produced fentanyl, some triggered by combinations of drugs other than opioids, such as methamphetamine and cocaine.

The pandemic has exacerbated the spiral, the authors said. With young and old isolated from social services, peers, families and treatment centers, let alone reducing income for many, drugs become a amuse and comfort.

The results showed a reduction in racial discrimination in access to substance abuse treatment. Although data showed that treatment was sparse for all who died, the proportion of those receiving treatment for substance abuse was smallest among Blacks (8.3%), or about half that of whites who sought treatment and subsequently died.

The report says income inequality also deepens that chasm.

Perhaps surprising, the report says that drug overdose death rates are generally higher in counties with more treatment services and mental health providers. Again, the impact varies by race. For example, among American Indians and Alaska Natives and blacks, the percentage by 2020 in counties with at least one opioid treatment program is more than double that of counties lacking those services.

Among counties with relatively more treatment options than others, drug overdose death rates from 2019 to 2020 increased by 49 percent among Blacks, compared with 19 percent among whites.

“Just because services are available doesn’t mean those services are actually accessible,” said Mbabazi Kariisa, lead author of the report and a medical scientist for Overdose Prevention at the CDC. Okay”. options can be problematic. Additionally, she said, fear of stigma and pervasive lack of trust in the health care system can also be significant factors.

The report also notes that in geographically large counties, a treatment center may be located in a densely populated center, which would make it difficult to reach people in remote areas. difficult. But it is difficult to determine a cause-and-effect relationship between the presence of a clinic and mortality: A county with high rates of drug abuse and simple overdose deaths may be more likely. have a clinic more.

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