The fentanyl crisis is plaguing the Black community. Over the last ten years, opioid prescriptions have decreased by over 44%. Yet, the number of opioid-related deaths increased by nearly 40% in African Americans within the last couple of years. However, reports show that overdoses and fatalities are still spiking even with more prescription drug monitoring programs (PMP).
Synthetic opioids are still the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the country as the U.S.The opioid epidemic experienced a “triple wave.” The first wave was prescription opioid analgesics. Then from 2010 to 2013, heroin led the race, and from 2013, fentanyl has spread like wildfire through the nation’s illegal drug market. Racial inequities in our healthcare system are probably one reason for the rise in Black Americans’ overdose deaths.
“Cocaine and methamphetamine are increasing tainted with fentanyl,” Dr. Kenneth Stoller, director of the Johns Hopkins Broadway Center for Addiction in Baltimore, said. “These other drugs are causing overdoses in people who aren’t used to using opioids, whose bodies aren’t tolerant to those opioid drugs.”
Waves of the Opioid Epidemic
Per the CDC, fentanyl-related overdose deaths more than doubled every year from 2013 until 2016. Earlier, we discussed waves; well, the country is currently fighting against the fourth one. There is an increase in polysubstance use for the fourth wave — combining opioids with other drugs such as benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, and notably, cocaine.
Since we know the numbers, why are prevention and treatment often overlooked in our community? Well, if you remember, with the war on drugs, Blacks were often the target, and punishment was heavier than treatment. Yes, drugs affect every color, but up until recently, it was affecting white people at a higher rate. However, the numbers have leveled out, and we are surpassing other groups. And still not much improvement.
Sadly, we lost the talented actor Michael K. Williams to an overdose on September 6th. A blow the entire Black community will never forget. The actor battled with drug addiction and was extremely open about his journey. And he was just one of many that we have lost due to fentanyl’s ugly hand.
These numbers will continuously rise until policymakers must take the necessary steps to include us in the conversation and make the change. What are your thoughts? Comment below!