Uneven access to healthcare and effective drug treatment has put African Americans at higher risk of dying from opioid abuse than whites, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The proliferation of fentanyl, along with added hazards for drug users due to the pandemic, has hit Black communities especially hard, resulting in a rate of drug deaths among Black people through 2020 that eclipsed the rate in the white population for the first time since 1999.
There were more than 15,200 overdoses among Black people in 2020, more than double the number from four years earlier, according to data published by UCLA researchers.
The toll represents nearly 37 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 Black people that year, trailing only the death rate in the significantly smaller American Indian or Alaska Native population.
The findings demonstrate the need to close gaps in access to treatment and harm-reduction services, which are meant to make drug use less risky, among other steps, and the researchers said ending routine incarceration of drug users could help prevent fatal overdoses among people after they leave prison.
Illicit Fentanyl, made by Mexican cartels and smuggled into the U.S., was a major driver when drug overdose deaths jumped roughly 30 percent to about 92,000 in 2020. There were an estimated 104,288 overdose deaths in the 12-month period running through September, 2021.