While the nation has become well aware of the opioid epidemic in recent years, it is helpful to also understand how some segments of the population have been uniquely impacted. According to a report from SAMHSA, the rate of overdose deaths among Black Americans between 2015 and 2016 increased 41%, versus a 21% increase in the overall population.
The increased presence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in circulation appears to be impacting Black people more than most other ethnic groups. The Black community experienced the highest synthetic opioid-related overdose death rates in 2017. Data provided has shown that these types of deaths increased by 818% between 2014–2017 among this community.
With all this data in mind it raises the question of what factors may be contributing to the higher rates of opioid use in the Black community. Read on to learn more about the issues behind these statistics.
Factors That Contribute to Substance Use In the Black Community
When searching for answers that help explain the high rates of opioid overdose deaths in the Black community, mental health causes are something to be considered. While depression and suicide rates are actually lower among the Black community, feelings of hopelessness and despair are more common compared with the Caucasian community. Trends are important to watch as well, with serious mental illness increasing among Black people of all ages between 2008–2018.
There are societal issues that continue to plague the Blackn community that also factor into substance use prevalence. Racial inequality, unemployment, and poverty may lead to illicit substance use among Black youth and young adults. Overprescribing of prescription opioids, which has also been a problem in Caucasian communities, has resulted in increased rates of opioid use disorders in Black communities.
But there are other factors that figure in as well. Black men in particular are concerned about the stigma related to getting help for either a mental health issue or an opioid use disorder. They see an opioid use disorder as a sign of weakness versus a disease, and also feel somewhat self-conscious, and mistrustful, about seeking professional help. There are also significant barriers to treatment, such as cost and available beds.
Treatment for Substance Use Disorders in the Black Community
While prevention messaging exists within Blackcommunities, the consensus seems to convey that these substance use prevention programs do not resonate effectively. Societal issues, such as high levels of incarceration, broken homes, and other community challenges, can be difficult to overcome with Red Ribbon Week, Just Say No, or DARE programs. Prevention efforts are important, but equally important is needed education about receiving needed treatment.
Access to substance use treatment and recovery services is lopsided. Black people are at a disadvantage in securing treatment, which is often dependent on income and insurance status. One glaring disparity in treatment programs in Black communities involves Medication-Supported Recovery (MSR). Where high-income Caucasians are provided with more expensive recovery medications buprenorphine and naloxone, Black people were predominantly prescribed methadone. Low cost methadone carries a more negative stigma, thus methadone treatment rates remain clustered in the low income Black communities.
Just as with all other racial inequities, there needs to be a sea of change toward providing equitable recovery services to all. Individuals from all backgrounds should have equal access to quality substance use treatment. Awareness of the existing disparity is a start to solving this serious problem in our Black communities.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formally Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.