Amid all the brouhaha over the opioid crisis in the United States that has killed millions of people so far, one section that is badly affected by drugs and is often overlooked is the African-Americans. When it comes to access to effectiveintervention programs,a recent report has highlighted that policymakers and the media often tend to ignore this community.
On the same lines, a recent paper, issued by the Chicago Urban League,indicated that African-Americansaccount for around 24 percent of opioid-related deaths despite formingonly 15 percent of the population of the state of Illinois.The researchers of thepaper, titled “Whitewashed: The African-American Opioid Epidemic,” also outlined other effects of drug use on African-Americans.
African-Americans encounter severe challenges related to opioid addiction treatment
Despite the increased number of opioid-related deaths among African-Americans, the researchers pointed out that they were less likely to receive help for their drug use due to the lack of treatment programs and facilities. For example, in Cook County,very few clinics administer medications like buprenorphinefor treatingopioid addiction. Therefore, there are scant chances that African-Americans will get the effective treatment for opioid addiction.
In the light of the revelation of the above gaps, Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler, a co-author of the report, stated,“On the one hand, the change in narrative has brought a broader awareness to the issue, but it has come at the expense of the comprehensive set of people who are affected by this”. Bechteler felt that people mostly focus on the White users of heroin and opioids in suburban and rural areas. And in the process, they tend to ignore the relevant issuesof the African-Americans.
Prejudiced approach responsible for increase in overdose deathsamong African-Americans
Much before opioids entered Chicago, the place was a veritable den for opium in the 19th century and later emerged as a big market forheroin. There were reports about the rise ofChicago asa leading supplier of drugs forthe entirecountry. When opioids began to emerge in the nineties, the scene became very different. Opioid use spread like wildfire and the menaceof opioid abuse took Chicago by storm. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, overdose deaths due to opioids among Whites grew to 82 percent in 2015 from 70 percent of the national total in 1999.
According to a media analysis published in the journal Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatryin 2016, the large-scale deaths due to opioids in Chicago garnered sympathy for the White users as victims, while the black and Latino users were branded criminals. Due to such prejudiced opinions among the masses, the approach toward opioid abuse among African-Americans has been quite different at various places. While the law enforcement agencies have been guiding users to seek treatment instead of prisons in the suburbs, they have adopted a stringent approach in the poor neighborhoods of Chicago.
The Urban League researchers wrote, “From 2012 to 2016, the Chicago community areas with the highest rates of felony drug arrests were overwhelmingly the city’s racially concentrated areas of poverty; the neighborhoods with the lowest rates were primarily white and wealthy.”
According to the Chicago Department of Public Health,the highest overdose deaths were also recorded among the African-Americans community, particularly from the South and West sides. Such a predicament can be addressed only through appropriate interventions. Probably, it is now moving in the right direction, with people becoming aware of the ground realities.
“Medication-assisted treatment capacity is expanding. That has been a goal, but not a lot of providers can do it, so we’re really ramping up assistance right now,” said Julia Morita, Chicago’s public health commissioner. It is now a well-understood fact that throughtheconstant expansion of treatment avenues, one can overcome the wrath of the opioid epidemic.
Road to recovery
Whether it is addiction to heroin, opioids or any other illicit substance, treatment is the only way out. Although severe and chronic addiction can be fatal, one can achievelong-term recovery through effective treatment. If you or your loved one is addicted to opioids, seek immediate help from opioid addiction treatment centers.
Sovereign Health,a leading substance abuse treatment provider in the United States,hasstate-of-the-art facilities around the country. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat onlineto know more about our opioid addiction treatment programs.