Opioid Overdose Rates Rising Among Latinos


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In Massachusetts, the opioid overdose rate for Latinos has nearly doubled in three years, reaching twice the rate of whites and African Americans, NPR reports.

Massachusetts isn’t alone, either.

Latino opioid overdoses are rapidly rising across the nation, according to the CDC.

Specifically, the Latino death toll for opioid overdoses rose 52.5% from 2014 to 2016. That’s compared to a 45.8% rise among whites.

“What we thought initially, that this was a problem among non-Hispanic whites, is not quite accurate,” Robert Anderson, who works at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told NPR. “If you go back into the data, you can see the increases over time in all of these groups, but we tended to focus on the non-Hispanic whites because the rates were so much higher.”

What Is Causing High Rates Of Opioid Overdose?

Little is known about the correlation between rising overdose deaths among blacks and Latinos as compared to whites, according to the article.

Rates of fatal opioid overdoses per 100,000 across the U.S. from 2014-2016. Deaths rose 45.8% for Whites, 52.5% for Hispanics and 83.9% for Blacks, according to the CDC. Photo Credit: NPR

Poverty, few bilingual treatment options, and other cultural barriers may share blame.

“The family is such an important unit — it’s difficult if there is substance use within the family for people to stop using opioids,” New York Dr. Chinazo Cunningham told NPR.

Opioid Overdoses in San Antonio

Opioid overdoses are surging in San Antonio, Texas. The city, the largest in Bexar County, is 63% Latino.

Many people addicted to opioids in San Antonio take a deadlier route after they are done with their prescription – heroin, which is the chemical cousin to opioids Vicodin and OxyContin.

“In Bexar County, deaths attributed to opioids peaked in 2011, when 145 people died. The toll dipped to double digits over the years until 2015, when it surged 50 percent to 108 fatal overdoses. The county’s fatality rate of 5.7 overdoses per 100,000 residents is the third highest in the state,” according to the San Antonio Express News.

Local Efforts to Combat Opioid Overdose

Researchers at UT Health San Antonio are studying opioid abuse.

They are focusing on the care of pregnant women who use opioids, which results in their newborns having an opioid withdrawal. They also are educating first responders in Bexar County how to identify and reverse opioid overdose.

“The purpose of this grant is to create an infrastructure that will help individuals with opioid use disorder to access treatment services and achieve long-term recovery,” said Dr. Lisa Cleveland of UT Health San Antonio.

By The Numbers By The Numbers



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