The opioid addiction crisis has hit most of the country. In Missouri, it has hit African Americans the hardest, especially in St. Louis.
Between 2015 and 2018 in St. Louis, opioid-related deaths among white males dropped 5 percent while deaths among Black males increased 50 percent.
More than 130 people die every day of opioid overdoses. Among the opioids that are being used heavily are prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Besides deaths, opioid addiction has become an economic burden for many cities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the U.S. is $78.5 billion a year including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
Why such a startling disparity? “There are numerous theories about what’s causing the Black-white disparity. One theory points to the scarcity of state-funded treatment and recovery resources in African-American areas of the city and north St. Louis County; there are three that treat patients for opioid use disorder. Others point to deep-seated racism, a dearth of community stakeholders in policy decisions, more exposure to white powder fentanyl, and high rates of uninsured residents,” the St. Lois Post- Dispatch reported.
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“Well into the epidemic, though, whites and Blacks are still dying by the thousands. But the disparity between the two has become alarmingly high in Missouri, where the rate of African-American men dying of overdose more than doubled between 2015 and 2018 while the rate for white men rose slightly. By 2018, African-American men were nearly three times as likely to die as white men,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
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Blacks are also using heroin at a higher rate, which sells for $5 a capsule, $10 for three on the street.