February 7, 2023

“Racism — a leading cause of health inequalities — remains a serious public health risk that directly impacts the well-being of millions of Americans and, as a result, affects the health of our entire nation,” said Debra Houry, acting director of the CDC. deputy director and director of the agency’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in a briefing Tuesday.

The crisis is disproportionately affecting black Americans on both ends of life. Black youth ages 15 to 24 saw an 86 percent increase in overdose deaths, the largest spike of any age or race group, while black men ages 65 and older were nearly seven times more likely to die from an overdose than white men. .

At the same time, access to substance abuse treatment is deeply distorted. According to the report, black people were less than half as likely as white people to receive treatment for substance use.

And in areas where more opioid treatment programs were available, opioid overdose rates were even higher than in areas with lower treatment availability, particularly among black, American Indian and Alaskan Natives.

“Just because services are available doesn’t mean those services are actually accessible,” said Mbabazi Kariisa, a health scientist with the CDC’s division of overdose prevention during the briefing.

After President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national health crisis in 2017, drug overdose deaths in the US continued to rise, reaching record highs in 2020 and 2021, with 91,799 and a estimated 107,622 deaths resp. Deaths from opioid overdoses made up the vast majority.

The pandemic, which has pushed people into social isolation and away from healthcare, appears to have further exacerbated the problem.

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The opioid crisis has shifted dramatically from the early days of prescription drug abuse to people who often unknowingly use potent synthetic fentanyl produced by transnational criminal organizations and mixed with other drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in an interview with POLITICO.

“This isn’t your uncle’s or your grandmother’s opioid crisis,” he said. The proliferation of synthetic fentanyl has made drugs more unpredictable, he said, and “destroys communities and kills Americans.”

Houry said it is critical to make Americans aware of the dangers of illicit drug supply in culturally appropriate campaigns to combat trends in overdose deaths, and to continue trying to improve access to treatment for all. groups affected by substance use disorder.

The CDC pointed to numerous ways that barriers to treatment access to substance use can play into people’s lives, ranging from logistical issues such as insurance coverage and the geographic distribution of treatment centers to more entrenched issues such as the ongoing stigmatization of substance use and long-standing distrust of the health care system.

“There are a number of things that come into play, besides the availability of treatment services in a particular city or area, that further prevent [people] of access to those resources,” Kariisa said.