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USA: sharp increase in the overdose death rate among minorities during the pandemic

The overdose death rate has increased disproportionately among minorities in the United States during the Covid-19 crisis, particularly among African Americans, a study by American health authorities showed on Tuesday.

The pandemic, by disrupting access to prevention and care services, has thus exacerbated “long ignored” disparities, according to this new study from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

According to it, the overdose death rate among black people increased by 44% between 2019 and 2020.

The increase was 39% among Native Americans, and 22% among white people.

In total, in 2020, the United States recorded more than 91,000 overdose deaths, the majority linked to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl. For 2021, provisional figures show that the 100,000 death mark has been exceeded.

The opioid crisis has long affected the white population in the United States, in particular with the over-prescription of powerful and highly addictive drugs. But overdose death rates subsequently rose much faster among minorities.

In 2019, overdose death rates among black, Native American and white people were relatively similar: 27, 26 and 25 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively.

But in 2020, those numbers jumped to 39 for African Americans, 36 for Native Americans, compared to 30 for whites.

Among the study’s most striking findings: Among those over 65, the death rate for black men was seven times higher than for white men in 2020.

The highest death rate was recorded among black men between the ages of 45 and 64 (77 deaths per 100,000 people). But the biggest increase between 2019 and 2020 was seen among young black people between the ages of 15 and 24.

“Racism, one of the root causes of health disparities, continues to pose a threat to public health,” said CDC official Debra Houry during a press conference, citing in particular the role of prejudice in access to health. care.

According to the study, black people who died by overdose were those who received the least treatment in the past (such as taking substitute opioids). And the death rate among African Americans and Native Americans was paradoxically highest in places with the most treatment offers.

“Just because there are treatments available doesn’t mean those services are actually accessible,” said Mbabazi Kariisa, overdose prevention researcher for the CDC.

Among the other factors raised: the difficulties of transport to the places of treatment, the stigma attached to them, or a general distrust vis-à-vis the healthcare system.

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