Fentanyl is taking over the drug market and leading to an alarming rise in Black overdose deaths, according to a new study.
The increased rate of overdoses among Black drug users is attributed to the transition from heroin to fentanyl in the street drug supply, People Magazine reports. Fentanyl is cheaper to produce and more potent, so it’s quickly replacing heroin as the most common illicit opioid.
UCLA addiction researcher Joseph Friedman said, "They [fentanyl] are also more dangerous, and their market takeover has led to a huge increase in overdoses. Friedman added, “As early as 2018, Black communities were more affected [by fentanyl] than white communities.”
For the first time since 1999, Black Americans are dying from drug overdoses at a higher rate than their white counterparts, a March analysis from JAMA Psychiatry states. In 2020, overdose deaths among Black people jumped 55 percent from the year before — for white people, the increase was 31 percent.
Friedman said structural racism also plays a factor in the rising overdose death rate. The Black community has disproportionately less access to substance abuse treatment and addiction specialists.
Desilynn Smith, a clinical director at a substance abuse treatment center, told People Magazine, "The numbers are enormous and discouraging,” Smith noted, "I knew 11 people who passed last year, and five so far this year. They were all African Americans."
Smith said the stigma surrounding addiction in the Black community contributes to the staggering numbers.
“Shame and addiction go hand in hand with us. It's not okay to be not okay."