Opioid Addiction Rising Among Black Americans

MastHead Outline
August 13, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyone’s lives around the world, but in America, some communities are experiencing the devastating impact of increased opioid overdose deaths along with the virus. The face of addiction through the opioid epidemic has long been seen as a white, rural concern, but the demographics are quickly changing.

Opioid use among Black Americans has soared over the past few years, and especially during the pandemic. The stay-at-home orders coupled with fentanyl flooding the streets has created a perfect storm of destruction in communities with limited resources to handle addiction.

New Alarming Statistics

The issues facing Black communities in regards to drugs and addiction, unfortunately, aren’t new. In previous decades, the war on drugs left many communities of color with high incarceration rates for drug offenses and without vital access to treatment. Similar issues face these communities today as the fast-growing pace of synthetic opioid deaths affects Black Americans across the country.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a report in February of 2020 showing that Black Americans had the most severe uptick in synthetic opioid overdose rates in the country, where fentanyl is responsible for about 60%. With more than 92,000 overdose deaths in America between November 2019 to 2020, a spike of over 50% of emergency calls nationwide were for the Black community members.

Although the Black population received far fewer opioid prescriptions historically during the opioid crisis, the recent flooding of fentanyl on the streets has made synthetic opioids a dire issue for all races, but with the most worrying escalation for Black Americans.

Barriers to Treatment

While various formats of opioid addiction treatment exist, from inpatient to outpatient medication-assisted treatment, not all communities in need are serviced equally. The most effective and practical methods involve methadone clinics that require patients to visit six times a week or office-based opioid treatment that uses prescribed buprenorphine medication patients take home to self-dispense. Still, data shows that Black patients are half as likely to receive follow-up treatment after non-lethal overdose upon enrolling in treatment than white patients, leading to higher relapse rates.

Even with the Affordable Care Act adding opioid use disorder treatment under its coverage in 2014, the paperwork and complicated hoops many patients must jump through have led many to give up on attempts at tracking down a clinic close to home that fits under their coverage.

Changing How Addiction is Viewed

Despite overwhelming evidence that addiction is indeed a disease, many still view it as a lifestyle choice. Medical professionals who are not personally involved with addiction or specialized in treating it who work in Black communities and aren’t aware of how much medication like buprenorphine can help those struggling. Spreading awareness among the medical community will be vital for helping improve people’s chances of overcoming opioid addiction as cases continue to pile up.

Along with the medical field, members of the Black community still battle with stigma among drug users and their families. Addiction can be difficult to deal with, and those who need help aren’t always the easiest to communicate to while opioids take control of their thoughts and actions. Raising awareness in the communities hardest affected can spark the change needed for everyone to see opioid use disorder as a chronic illness that can be helped with comprehensive medical treatment.

AppleGate is dedicated to helping patients regardless of race, religion, gender, or creed reach recovery from opioid use disorder. Our medical providers are certified and specialized in dealing with addiction, and our knowledgeable staff can help those interested with any paperwork or insurance questions they may have. Email, call or visit our judgment-free facilities today to learn more about our intake process and office-based opioid treatment programs.

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