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The Opioid Epidemic in Black and White America

From US News & World Report (January 28, 2019)

For the past several years, American attention has been fixated on fighting opioid overdoses in largely white towns, where reports of climbing fatality rates have struck like a thunderbolt, revealing communities in economic and social distress. . . .Yet population health analysts, academics and on-the-ground specialists say heroin and its related plagues of crime and death have stalked African-American neighborhoods for decades, garnering little to no attention. 

. . .Numbers tell part of the story: A U.S. News analysis using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found the age-adjusted rate of fatal opioid-related overdoses among blacks in America averaged 3.7 deaths per 100,000 population between 2005 and 2013, far below the 7.6 average rate for whites during that time. Yet between 2014 and 2017, the fatal overdose rate among blacks rose by 130 percent, more than twice the 61.5 percent surge for whites over that period. Moreover, the number of black overdose victims in urban areas soared in recent years – from roughly 5 deaths per 100,000 in 2012 to about 17 in 2017, according to a similar analysis of federal statistics.

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