Recent data on fatal overdoses in Connecticut shows overdoses among black and Hispanic citizens are increasing as a proportion of total overdose deaths.
To date in 2020, 29% of overdose deaths in Connecticut have been black or Hispanic people compared to 18% in 2015, 21% in 2016 and 2017, 24% in 2018, and 28% in 2019.
Source: Drug Overdose Deaths in Connecticut
Accessed September 21, 2020. Data updated through 8/27/2020 (Chart by medicscribe)
I have had more than a few people from minority communities express bitterness to me that this country only began to care about the opioid epidemic when white sons and daughters started to die, while when it affected people of color in the inner city, the government instead of showing compassion toward the sick, invented the War on Drugs to attack black and poor people.
The disparity between treatment of white and minority is often illustrated in the heavy sentences for crack cocaine users (preferred in black community) versus the lighter sentences for cocaine users (more preferred by white users), a disparity that is a terrible miscarriage of justice in a country that professes to treat all citizens the same.
For years, people in the cities died, and no one seemed to care about the “addicts” and “junkies” who threw their lives away with poor choices. (To be fair, I did overdoses of white people in the old days, too, but at those times, white society more completely stigmatized and cast out its own than they do today until the numbers finally reached a turning point.) That the opioid epidemic has gained attention in the suburbs in the near past to the point that people began talking about it, and using their political power to fight on behalf of their addicted sons and daughters instead of disowning them, is not a bad thing. For years the suburbs were silent as their children died. Their voices have helped all people who are addicted. But while the death rate in the suburbs seems to be improving, similar gains are not happening in Hartford. Nationwide, as in Connecticut, the epidemic is still growing in the inner cities.
It is vital that programs for substance users don’t neglect those in our cities or those of those of lessor economic means.
We as a nation–suburb and city–must speak out on behalf of all sufferers.
I would like to think that this crisis will bring us all together so that we treat everyone the same. There are millions out there in the cold who need our help to find their way home.
This country and our military have a saying: “We leave no one behind.” In EMS, as in all medicine, we have an obligation to honor the Hippocratic Oath: “Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick.”
The epidemic won’t be over and our efforts should not cease until people of all colors and races no longer have to suffer for the deaths of their own.
Peace to all.
THE OPIOID CRISIS AND THE BLACK/AFRICAN AMERICAN POPULATION: AN URGENT ISSUE