The Opioid Crisis Isn’t White

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re spending the hour on the opioid crisis. Right now we’re joined by Abdullah Shihipar, who wrote a New York Times op-ed last month headlined “The Opioid Crisis Isn’t White.” Abdullah, explain.

ABDULLAH SHIHIPAR: Yeah. So, the opioid crisis traditionally is considered to be white, because people are looking at, largely, the total numbers, which no one would deny that mostly white Americans are dying of overdose from opioids. It’s about 78 percent. But especially in the last few years, if you look at the rates of increase of opioid overdose death rates, we find that especially black Americans have had a stark increase in the death rates compared to other groups — in fact, more than white Americans. Since 2015, if you compare the rates of increase from 2015 to 2017, it’s almost doubled. So, essentially, the opioid crisis, we tend to look at it as a white problem, but when you scratch beneath the service, you can really see that it affects the cross-sections of America.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you think accounts for the increase in addiction in the black and Latino communities?

ABDULLAH SHIHIPAR: Right. So, we definitely know that fentanyl is a part of it. The CDC just released a report documenting fentanyl-related overdoses, which showed that black Americans and Hispanic Americans showed a sharper rate of increase in fentanyl-related overdoses compared to white Americans. Now, that said, that’s all we really know about it. We don’t really know too, too much about why all of a sudden black and Hispanic Americans are overdosing at greater rates than white Americans at the moment. But fentanyl is definitely a part of that. But we don’t know specifically.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, for a long time there was criticism that for the drug epidemic in this country, it was not taken seriously in any national way, it was simply criminalized, not made a…

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