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Opioid overdose deaths may be rising most among whites, but blacks and Hispanics are also affected

Among black Americans, men and women over 45 show the greatest rise in fatal overdose rates

CNN  — 

The American opioid crisis is only part of an overall drug abuse emergency. Cocaine-related overdose deaths among non-Hispanic blacks are on par with overdose deaths caused by heroin and prescription opioids among whites, according to a study published Monday in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Numerous US national surveillance studies and media reports have highlighted an alarming rise in drug poisoning deaths in recent years,” said Meredith Shiels, a co-author of the study and an investigator at the National Cancer Institute. However, most of the studies focus on opioid-related deaths, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl. They also tend to emphasize the fact that death rates are “rising most rapidly among white Americans,” she said.

The researchers, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Cancer Institute, found that cocaine overdoses also killed Hispanics and whites over the time period studied.

But the new study reveals the increasing rates of drug overdose deaths among black and Hispanic Americans.

“These increases have received less attention,” Shiels said.

Overdose deaths rise 5.5% each year

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16,849 Americans died due to an overdose in 1999, and in 2015, the number of overdose fatalities reached 52,404. Overall, rates of overdose deaths increased by 5.5% per year between 1999 and 2015. Most of that increase has been attributed to opioid-related deaths among white persons.