WEDNESDAY, July 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Considerable racial and ethnic disparities are seen in drug overdose rates, according to a Vital Signs report published in the July 19 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Mbabazi Kariisa, Ph.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed overdose death rates from 2019 to 2020 in 25 states and the District of Columbia using data from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System. Rates were examined by race and ethnicity and by county-level social determinants of health.

The researchers found that drug overdose death rates increased by 44 and 39 percent among non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) persons, respectively, from 2019 to 2020. Across sex, age, and racial and ethnic subgroups, significant disparities were identified. Among Black men aged 65 years or older, the rate in 2020 was nearly seven times that of non-Hispanic White men aged 65 years or older (52.6 versus 7.7 per 100,000). Black persons had the lowest evidence of previous substance use treatment (8.3 percent). In counties with greater income inequality, disparities in overdose deaths were larger, especially among Black persons. In 2020, opioid overdose rates were higher in areas with more opioid treatment program availability compared with areas with lower availability, especially among Black (34.3 versus 16.6) and AI/AN (33.4 versus 16.2) persons.

“Drug overdoses are preventable, and rapidly scaling up multisectoral, culturally responsive prevention efforts across federal, state, local, and tribal entities that place equity as a central tenet to address the escalating overdose crisis is urgently needed,” the authors write.

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