2020 data shows an increase in drug overdoses for minority groups

Jul 22, 2022, 8:00 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 10:30 am
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
FILE: SLCPD to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Photo: Adobe Stock

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report from the CDC shows that deaths by drug overdoses increased for Blacks, Indigenous tribes, and Alaska Natives in 2020. Drug overdoses have been a leading cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S. in recent years.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes the recent increases to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. And COVID-19 may also be a factor, as the pandemic is believed to have altered access to prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services. The pandemic is also believed to have contributed to the increase in the use of fentanyl.

Consequently, drug overdoses affect Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native people differently than the White population.

Breaking down the reports

According to the CDC Vital signs report, in 2020, overdose death rates per every 100,000 people increased 44% for Black people and 39% for Indigenous tribes in North America. In 2020, the overdose death rate among Black males 65 years and older was nearly seven times that of white males 65 years and older. Overdose death rates for American Indian and Alaska Native women 25–44 years of age were nearly two times that of white women 25–44 years of age.

The vital signs report also examined overdose increases and their relation to treatment access and income inequality. These variables are closely related to racial inequality. The analysis found much higher rates of substance abuse reports than substance abuse treatment reports.

Specifically, about 1 in every 10 American Indian and Alaska Native and Hispanic drug users had reportedly received substance use treatment. Meanwhile, reports were even lower for Black people. The research found that one in every 12 Black people who also used drugs had received substance use treatment. 

Data shows that areas with higher amounts of treatment facilities and resources did not result in a decrease in opioid overdoses. Instead, it proved the opposite. The CDC accredits this to known differences in access, barriers to care, and healthcare mistrust. 

CDC recommendations

Generally, prevention starts with drug education, specifically raising awareness about illegally manufactured fentanyl and polysubstance use. Correspondingly, prevention gets a boost when the stigmas around treatment and recovery are lessened.

The CDC urges counties with high opioid use and overdoses to increase access and reduce barriers to proven treatment and recovery support services. This goes for all people and requires the incorporation of culturally tailored practices. For example research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has shown treatment outcomes have been approved with better client-counseling matching. Clients want to know their counselor understands their worldviews even if not shared.  

Find treatment for substance use disorder, including opioid use disorder

If you or someone close to you needs help for a substance use disorder, talk to your doctor or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or go to SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services 

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2020 data shows an increase in drug overdoses for minority groups