A new study shows that black people die from cocaine overdoses almost as much as white people die from prescription opioid overdoses. At certain periods, the overdose death numbers were almost equal. In the period between 2012 and 2015 the death rate for black men using cocaine was 7.6 people for every 100,000. At the same time the rate for white prescription opioid overdose deaths was 7.9 people for every 100,000 people, Newsweek reports.
“Opioids were the most common contributor to overdose deaths in [non-Hispanic white] persons, but cocaine was the largest contributor among [non-Hispanic black] men and women over all periods,” the authors of the study stated.
According to David Thomas, a co-author of the study and a health scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this is not a simple opioid use crisis, but a more general drug misuse crisis.
“These are the first data that I am aware of looking at cocaine death rates by race from the recent period where opioid death rates have dramatically escalated. This is not just an opioid use crisis of historic proportions. There is a more general drug misuse crisis,” he says.
Meanwhile, Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, says that the opioid crisis is an addiction epidemic.
“Counting deaths, you’re certainly missing a lot of the human costs and you don’t look at the devastating impact that it has on a family and a community, but it’s sort of the ultimate measure. If we were doing a better job of responding to the opioid addiction epidemic, you would be seeing deaths coming down,” he says.
Kolodny adds that cocaine deaths among black men were constant for the 15 years that the study has analyzed, while opioid deaths among whites have increased. Death certificate data from the period between 2000 and 2015 from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics have been analyzed. Authors say that 20 percent of death certificates for unintentional overdoses do not list the deadly drug and that could be a factor that could underestimate the results.