Between 2019 and 2020, overall drug overdose death rates increased in many areas of America, with the largest increases occurring among certain racial/ethnic minority populations, according to a new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report published online July 19, 2022 as a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Early Release.
Researchers used data from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS) to analyze overdose death rates from 2019 to 2020 in 26 jurisdictions: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Rates were examined by race and ethnicity and county-level social determinants of health, such as income inequality and treatment provider availability. Below, find details on 5 critical findings from the report.
1. Disproportionate increases among Black, AI/AN persons:
• Relative rate increases in drug overdose deaths highest among Black (44%) and AI/AN (39%) persons, followed by White persons (22%)from 2019-2020.
• Death rates (overdose deaths/100 000 population) among Black men aged ≥65 years were nearly 6-times as high as those among White men of the same age in 2019 (35.7 vs 6.2), increasing to nearly 7-times as high in 2020 (52.6 vs 7.7).
•Rate among AI/AN women aged 25-44 years increased to nearly twice that of White women of the same age in 2020.
•Largest relative increase in overdose death rate (2019-2020): AI/AN women aged 25–44 years (88%).
2. Greater disparities in overdose deaths in counties with more income inequality: Death rates increased with rising county-level income inequality, particularly among Black persons, among whom the overdose death rate was more than twice as high in areas with the highest income inequality (46.5/100 000) as in areas with the lowest income inequality (19.3/100 000).
3. Substance use common, but treatment was not:
• Documented history of substance use was commonly reported for most decedents, with the highest proportion among White (78.3%), AI/AN (77.4%), and Hispanic (74.8%) decedents.
• Proportion of decedents with evidence of previous substance use treatment was low overall. Lowest proportions among Black (8.3%) decedents, followed by Hispanic (10.2%) and AI/AN (10.7%) decedents.
4. Drug overdose death rates were higher in areas with a higher potential capacity for opioid treatment and mental health treatment; varied by race and ethnicity:
• Among Black individuals, drug overdose rate in 2020 in counties with the highest mental health provider availability (46.7) was >2.5-times as high as that in areas with the lowest rate of mental health providers (17.2).
• Rates of opioid-involved deaths in 2020 among Black, AI/AN persons in counties with at least 1 opioid treatment program were more than twice those in counties without programs.