According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overall overdose death rates have increased by 5.5 percent per year between 1999 and 2015. Meredith Shiels, study co-author and an investigator at the National Cancer Institute, says the majority of similar studies only look at opioid-related deaths as they relate to white Americans, however.
“Numerous US national surveillance studies and media reports have highlighted an alarming rise in drug poisoning deaths in recent years,” explains Shiels. She adds that increases in overdose deaths among Black and Hispanic Americans “have received less attention.”
For their study, researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Cancer Institute gathered and examined data from 2000 through 2015. Per their findings, a spike in overdose deaths was seen among white and Hispanic people of all ages, but rising rates were most significant among Black men aged 50 and up and Black women 45 and up.
Coke was the largest cause among Black men and women, with cocaine-related deaths surging between 2004 and 2007, dropping between 2008 and 2011, and peaking again between 2012 and 2015 among Blacks, whites and Hispanics. Recently, heroin saw the largest increase in overdose deaths among Black and Hispanic people.
“There were too few drug overdose deaths among Asian-Americans to be able to draw meaningful conclusions about mortality rates by drug type, so this group was omitted,” Shiels added. “In the most recent years studied, 2012 to 2015, cocaine overdose deaths were almost as common in Black men as prescription opioid deaths in white men and slightly more common in Black women than deaths from heroin overdose in white women.”
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