While COVID-19 spun off variants to infect millions of people, many coped with the different lockdown orders by taking opioids.
It was a choice that led to a 46% increase in opioid-related deaths in Washington, D.C., in 2020. Most of the people impacted by this issue were older Black and African-American men.
Although the rates are staggering, the issue isn’t something new to those who live in America’s capital. Fentanyl deaths started rising in 2017, and the figures have kept climbing since that time.
Treatment Options Show Racial Disparities
The United States experiences several ethnic and racial disparities in the healthcare field. The use of opioid disorder treatments, including buprenorphine and methadone, has several barriers to distribution to minority communities.
Buprenorphine providers tend to accept commercial insurance, but they will not take Medicaid.
Medicaid is the medical coverage individuals and families receive when they meet specific low-income thresholds. Minorities in the United States are more likely to use this service, and it is even more likely that someone with an opioid addiction will be on it.
That means the people who need the treatment the most are the least likely to get it.
What fueled this crisis? We know that about one-quarter of the patients who receive prescription opioids for pain management end up abusing the product.
We also know that about 5% of the people who misuse an opioid prescription will transition to heroin.
The only way to change these statistics is to stop offering opioids as the first-course treatment for pain. We must also reach out to the communities where overdosing is rampant to deliver some much-needed services.