Cocaine Overdose Death Among African Americans Rising On Par With Opioid Deaths In Whites

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Cocaine Overdose Death Among African Americans Rising On Par With Opioid Deaths In Whites

A new study published this week found that while overdose deaths are increasing among whites, African Americans and Hispanics are also very much affected. Among blacks, women and men over age 45 have seen the most significant increases in overdose fatalities, and cocaine overdose death is the leading cause. And opioids are only one part of the problem.

Fatal cocaine-related overdose rates among non-Hispanic blacks are similar to opioid-related overdose death rates among whites. To a lesser extent, cocaine is also killing whites and Hispanics.

Meredith Shiels, study co-author told CNN:

“Numerous…studies and media reports have highlighted an alarming rise in drug poisoning deaths in recent years.”

Importantly, she noted, most studies focus on deaths caused by opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin/fentanyl, and also tend to stress the fact that overdose rates are “rising most rapidly among white Americans.” This study, however, shows that fatal drug overdoses are also rising among black and Hispanic Americans. Shiels:

“These increases have received less attention.”

For the study, researchers examined national statistics from death certificates for the years 2000-2015. Fatal overdoses rose among all age groups of both whites and Hispanics, but the most troubling rates were those among black men aged 50 or older and black women aged 45 or older. Cocaine was the leading factor in these deaths.

The cocaine overdose death rate peaked from 2004-2007 and then fell again from 2008-2011. They increased again from 2012-2015 among blacks, whites, and Hispanics. There were also increases in deaths due to other opioids, benzodiazepines such as Xanax, and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine among both Hispanics and blacks.

But the highest recent increases in overdose deaths for Hispanics and blacks were related to heroin. When 2000-2003 data was compared to 2012-2015, fatal overdose rates among blacks increased from 6.1 per 100,000 people to 9 of 100,000. Overdose deaths among Hispanics increased from 4.2 to 6 per 100,000, and from 5.6 to 15.5 per 100,000 among whites.


“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.”

The study was conducted by researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Cancer Institute and was published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


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