CDC report shows historic increase in overdose deaths

(ABC 6 News) – In 2020, overdose death rates (number of drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people) increased 44% for Black people and 39% for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people compared with 2019, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report.

Overdose death rates in other groups, specifically White people, are also at historic highs at 24%. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, disruption in access to prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services has likely contributed to this growth. Recent increases in deaths were largely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (IMFs).

Drug overdose data was collected from 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Among the key findings for drug overdose deaths:

  • In 2020, the overdose death rate among Black males 65 years and older was nearly seven times that of White males 65 years and older.
  • Black people 15–24 years old experienced the largest rate increase (86%) compared with changes seen in other age/race groups during 2019–2020.
  • Overdose death rates for AI/AN women 25–44 years of age were nearly two times that of White women 25–44 years of age.
  • A history of substance use was common, but a history of receiving substance use treatment was not. Only about 1 in every 10 AI/AN and Hispanic people had reportedly received substance use treatment; evidence of treatment was even lower for Black people (1 in every 12).
  • Opioid overdose rates in 2020 were higher in areas with higher availability of opioid treatment programs compared with areas with lower treatment availability, particularly among Black (34 vs. 17) and AI/AN (33 vs. 16) people per 100,000.
  • In counties with more income inequality, there were greater disparities in overdose deaths, particularly among Black people, where the rate was more than two times as high in areas with more income inequality versus those with less income inequality.
  • In counties with the lowest income inequality, rates were highest among AI/AN people.

“The increase in overdose deaths and widening disparities are alarming,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Dr. Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H. “Overdose deaths are preventable, and we must redouble our efforts to make overdose prevention a priority. We will continue to support and work collaboratively with communities… and provide tailored tools and resources to combat overdose and address underlying risk factors will ultimately help reduce health disparities and save lives.”

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