Overdose deaths in the United States jumped for blacks and Native Americans during the pandemic

Overdose deaths rose 44% for black people and 39% for Native Americans in 2020 compared to 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted access to care and exacerbated racial inequalities, a report revealed on Tuesday. official.

“Racism, the root cause of health disparities, continues to be a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans,” said Debra Houry, the Centers’ acting senior deputy director. for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States. Report.

“The disproportionate increase in overdose death rates among Blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives may be due in part to health inequalities, such as unequal access to drug treatment and treatment bias.

According to the CDC report, the recent increase in deaths is largely due to illegally manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.

Before the pandemic, the overdose death rate was similar for blacks, Indigenous peoples and whites, at 27, 26 and 25 per 100,000 people in 2019.

But that changed drastically in 2020, when the respective figures were 39, 36 and 31 per 100,000 population.

Although the increase among whites was not as large as among blacks and Native Americans, the new rate is still at an all-time high.

Among the key findings: The overdose death rate among black men 65 and older was nearly seven times that of their white counterparts.

Blacks aged 15 to 24 saw the largest rate increase, 86%, compared to changes seen in other groups.

“There was a significantly lower percentage of people from racial and ethnic minority groups showing evidence of ever having received treatment for substance use, compared to white people,” said Mbabazi Kariisa, a health scientist from the CDC, during the briefing.

In fact, most people who die of overdoses had no evidence of having undergone prior drug treatment before their death.
Areas where the income gap between rich and poor was greater had the highest death rates.

Impoverishment “can result in a lack of stable housing, reliable transportation and health insurance, making it even more difficult to access treatment and other support services,” Kariisa said.

In terms of recommendations, Houry said it was essential to raise awareness of the lethality of the illicit drug supply, particularly fentanyl, and to encourage people to take the life-saving treatment Naloxone.

Improving access to treatment and providing structural support, such as help with transportation and childcare, can improve access to care.

“Combining culturally appropriate traditional practices, spirituality and religion with evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders also helps to raise awareness and reduce stigma,” she said.

“While we have made so much progress in treating substance use disorders as chronic illnesses rather than moral failings, there is still a lot of work to be done, including ensuring that all people who need these services can get them,” Houry concluded.

Nohemi M. Moore