Women health

 Opioid epidemic and foster care

According to a new study, overdoses amongst Black men have predominantly been responsible for the approximately tenfold rise in opioid mortality among seniors 55 and older.

The latest indication of the evolving demographics of the American drug epidemic is the rise in opioid overdose deaths among older Black men.

A recent study reveals that Black men have had the fastest increase in opioid overdose deaths amongst older individuals in the U.S. This provides additional proof that people of color have been disproportionately harmed by a deadly drug problem that was long thought to primarily afflict white people.

The study, which was released on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, found that the yearly rate of opioid overdose deaths among adults 55 and older climbed roughly tenfold, from 0.9 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 10.7 per 100,000 people in 2019. Over the course of those two decades, more than 80,000 Americans aged 55 or older died from an opioid overdose, with more than 58% of men & nearly 80% of deaths occurring in this age group.

A surge in overdose deaths amongst Black men, who have had significantly higher mortality rates since 2013 than the overall percentage for those at least 55 years old, has been the main factor driving the overall increase. At more than 40 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019, the rate of older Black men dying from opioid overdoses was more than four times greater than the rate for older adults as a whole.

Between 1999 and 2019, the overdose fatality rates among older persons were lowest among Hispanic women, and Asian and Pacific Islander men and women, never topping 3 deaths per 100,000. From 0.23 deaths per 100,000 people among Hispanic males, Black women, American Indian or Alaska Native men and women, and white men and women, to 12.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019.

The latest illustration of the demographic shift caused by the U.S. drug epidemic is the rise in opioid overdose deaths among older Black men.

In comparison to Blacks, Hispanics, and a mixed group that includes Asians or Pacific Islanders, American Indians, or Alaska Natives, whites have had the greatest rate of opioid overdose deaths since at least 2001 through 2019, according to data gathered by the Kaiser Clinton Foundation.

In 2017, the rate for White people was 19.4 fatalities per 100,000 people, compared to 12.9 deaths per 100,000 for Black people.

Particularly, prescribed painkillers were a major contributor to the opioid epidemic's early years. White patients were, at least initially, more likely to obtain these drugs than Black patients.

According to Maryann Mason, an associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine or the study's primary author, "the United States has experienced an opioid crisis essentially since the Civil War." What started occurring in 2000 was that an increasing number of white people developed addictions and overdosed.

However, the racial gap has closed recently, with the opioid overdose death rate for Black people hitting 17.1 per 100,000 in 2019 compared to 19 per 100,000 for white people, according to the KFF data.

African Americans are dying at a rate that is noticeably higher than whites due to opioid-related overdoses, according to a separate study that was published in the 2020 issue of the journal Addiction. Additionally, according to new research released in September, the rate of opioid overdose deaths among adults of color increased by 38% from 2018 to 2019 in four states (Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio), but not among other racial/ethnic groups overall.

Mason claims that the surge in opioid overdose deaths amongst older Black adults began around the same time as the "third wave" of the opioid crisis, as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strong synthetic opioid fentanyl has been more prevalent during that wave, which has been its defining feature.

While Mason suggests that the increased use of fentanyl may be a contributing factor in the rise in overdose deaths among older Black adults, she also points out that Black patients are less likely to have health insurance, and her study cites completely separate research showing that White patients are more likely to receive buprenorphine, a key drug for treating opioid use disorder, than some other patients.

Black people continue to be at a disadvantage, according to Mason, who claims that all of these factors sort of togetherness.

Mason claims that because the signs of aging and opioid use disorder might occasionally be confused, healthcare practitioners may be less likely to test older people for substance use problems in light of the surge in opioid overdose mortality among all older adults.

According to her, practitioners should screen more senior populations for opioid use disorder.

Mason says that "we have to begin viewing older folks as entire individuals who may have these challenges."


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