black or african american man struggling with addiction and drug overdose

The drug overdose epidemic in the United States has continued to scale since 2019 in various racial and ethnic groups due to multiple factors. Overdose-related deaths have become a significant public health crisis due to the increased use and accessibility of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, methadone, and buprenorphine.

The Rise of the Drug Overdose Epidemic in the U.S.

The drug overdose epidemic took place when prescription opioids led to substance misuse and addiction during the opioid crisis. Prescription opioid painkillers, like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine, became popular medication prescribed for moderate to severe pain. The effects of opioids led users to become dependent on their relief, leading them to use them outside of medical instruction. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sharp increase in overdose deaths linked to the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent opioid drug that is medically prescribed for pain relief but has been linked to opioid overdoses and deaths. With the increase in mental health issues alongside the disturbance in access to healthcare and support services during COVID-19, substance abuse and relapse rates were at an all-time high.

white american woman seeking addiction treatment and support for drug abuse to prevent drug overdose death

Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths Among Racial and Ethnic Groups

Opioid overdose-related deaths have continued to affect individuals across various racial and ethnic groups. In the past decade, there’s been a surge in drug overdose deaths across all demographics, primarily linked to fentanyl. The trends and factors contributing to drug overdose deaths vary among different ethnicities due to socioeconomic status, access to healthcare and treatment, and the types of drugs being abused. The most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths include fentanyl and synthetic opioids, cocaine, and prescription opioids.

Poverty and economic disadvantages are often associated with an increase in substance abuse and drug overdose-related deaths. Racial and ethnic groups with limited access to healthcare, mental health, and drug rehab treatment increase drug overdose death rates. Drug-related arrests in racial and ethnic disparities can impact individual risk factors for overdose and the overall community dynamics. The stigma surrounding mental health issues and drug abuse can prohibit certain groups from seeking the necessary treatment and support.

black or african american woman taking opioid drugs

Black or African American Communities

In Black and African American communities, there’s been an alarming rise in drug overdose deaths in the last couple of years. From 2019 to 2020, drug overdose deaths increased by 44% in non-Hispanic black individuals in the United States. The increase of fentanyl in illicit drug supply, such as heroin and cocaine laced with fentanyl, has disproportionately driven overdose deaths within this community. Racial disparities in access to healthcare and treatment services, along with the discrimination associated with drug use, significantly impact the Black community’s capability to receive treatment for drug abuse and substance use disorders (SUDs).

White Americans

In 2020, White Americans had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths, followed by the Black and Hispanic communities. The accessibility of prescription opioids and illicit drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, has significantly contributed to drug abuse and overdose deaths in the White community. White Americans see the highest rates of receiving substance use disorder (SUD) treatment due to their accessibility to healthcare and treatment services.

Hispanic or Latino Communities

Compared to non-Hispanics, the Hispanic population has also seen a significant increase in overdose deaths from 2010 to 2021. Overdose rates in Hispanic or Latino communities increased from 5.6 to 21.7 per 100,000. Factors contributing to drug overdose deaths include barriers to accessing drug rehabilitation treatment, alongside socioeconomic disparities in the Hispanic community. Hispanic or Latino individuals often experience unfair treatment and language barriers with healthcare providers, which significantly interferes with their access to support and treatment for drug abuse and addiction. Families in the Hispanic community might not seek addiction treatment due to their immigration status or immigration-related fears within their family, leading to higher rates of drug overdose deaths.

American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN)

In 2021, Native Americans and Alaska Natives had the highest rates of illicit drug use and drug overdose deaths across all racial and ethnic groups. The increase in overdose deaths among AI/AN individuals may be associated with health inequities, including access to drug addiction treatment services. Other factors contributing to substance abuse and overdose in AI/AN populations include federal Indian law, policies, and societal practices. These factors may prevent individuals from seeking drug rehab or mental health treatment, leading to inadequate care and further increasing overdose death risks.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AA/PI)

As the fastest-growing population in the U.S., Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders had the lowest drug overdose death rates in 2021 compared to other groups. However, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) have a higher lifetime dependence on illicit drugs compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Individuals in the AAPI community are less likely to require treatment for drug abuse than other racial and ethnic communities. They are also less likely to recognize their need for professional treatment due to the cultural stigma against mental health issues and addiction amongst Asian and Pacific Islanders.

man struggling with mental health and drug addiction

Treatment and Support for Drug Abuse Across All Communities

Drug abuse and addiction have been a growing concern in the United States for many years across all racial and ethnic communities. The cultural and social stigma associated with addiction and mental health issues has prevented many individuals of different races from seeking and receiving the proper treatment and support. This stigma and lack of treatment have contributed to the increase in drug addiction and overdose death rates in Black or African American Communities, White Americans, Hispanic or Latinos, as well as the AI/AN and AA/PI communities. Continuing to offer concern to those struggling with mental health or addiction could help reduce the stigma and encourage them to get the treatment they need.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug addiction or a substance use disorder (SUD), we’re here to help. Our drug detox and addiction treatment services are guaranteed to provide you with comfortable and efficient treatment and care. Reach out to Coastal Detox and choose sobriety today!


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