Drug overdose deaths surged by 30 percent during the first year of the pandemic, with Black and Native American communities bearing a disproportionately higher burden, the Centers for Disease Control reported on Tuesday, Axios reports. The pandemic highlighted long-overlooked disparities in health care and how social determinants like poverty, housing and transportation can hinder access to care, including substance use treatment. Fentanyl has accelerated the opioid crisis and is often laced into other drugs, sometimes unbeknownst to the user. Overdose rates were highest in areas with the most treatment options available, in 25 states and the District of Columbia, where data was available, the report found. "Just because there's availability of services doesn't meant they're necessarily accessible," said Mbabazi Kariisa, a CDC health scientist. Systemic racism, income inequality, and lack of reliable housing, transportation and health insurance all play a role in why overdoses disproportionately affect Black and Native American people, CDC officials said.
In 2020, 91,799 Americans died of a drug overdose, and from 2019 to 2020 overdose rates increased the most among teens and young adults. Black youths and young adults ages 15 to 24 years old experienced the largest overdose death rate increase, eighty six percent. Native Americans ages 25 to 44 saw an increase of forty nine percent in the rate of overdose deaths. White people ages 15 to 24 had a thirty four percent increase in overdose deaths. The landscape is evolving, CDC officials said, and illicit drug use as well as poly-substance use is a major cause for concern, especially when fentanyl can kill a person who uses it once.