LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A recent report from the CDC shows that drug overdose deaths have increased significantly for Black, American Indian and Alaska Native people in 2020.
The rates increased 44 percent for Black people and 39 percent for American Indian and Alaska Native people compared with 2019, according to drug overdose data from 25 states and the District of Columbia. Overdose death rates in other groups, specifically White people, for whom the increase was 24 percent, are also at historic highs.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, disruption in access to prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services has likely contributed to this growth in overdose deaths, according to the CDC.
Recent increases in deaths were largely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
Additionally, the report analyzed drug overdose death rates by treatment access and income inequality, which continue to show concerning trends and widening disparities between different population groups.
Only about 1 in every 10 AI/AN and Hispanic people had reportedly received substance use treatment; evidence of treatment was even lower for Black people (1 in every 12). Opioid overdose rates in 2020 were higher in areas with higher availability of opioid treatment programs compared with areas with lower treatment availability, particularly among Black and AI/AN people.
However, higher availability of treatment services does not mean improved access to care. The known differences in access, barriers to care, and healthcare mistrust could play a role in exacerbating inequities even when treatment is available in the community. In counties with more income inequality, there were greater disparities in overdose deaths, particularly among Black people, where the rate was more than two times as high in areas with more income inequality versus those with less income inequality. In counties with the lowest income inequality, rates were highest among AI/AN people.
“The increase in overdose deaths and widening disparities are alarming,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Dr. Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H. “Overdose deaths are preventable, and we must redouble our efforts to make overdose prevention a priority. We will continue to support and work collaboratively with communities as we do with CDC’s Overdose Data to Action. Providing tailored tools and resources to combat overdose and address underlying risk factors will ultimately help reduce health disparities and save lives.”