How is the Opioid Epidemic Sparking a Conversation About Race and Equality?


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Along with the opioid crisis comes a national conversation on drug use and the need for providing more resources, education, and support to those who need it in our communities. The government’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 22 million Americans age 12 and older are using drugs. This number has likely increased, and the government has been collecting research on populations at risk. By identifying areas of concern, we can create customized action plans to suit those populations and hopefully decrease the overall rate of drug use, overdose, and deaths that occur daily in this country.

Virtually everyone is affected by drug abuse, as it does not discriminate. However, reports are showing that the white population is struggling with opioids most, and while minority groups are impacted, they have been more protected from the epidemic. How is this? Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a drug abuse expert, shared his opinions on the National Public Radio (NPR). He stated,

“Something that we do know is that doctors prescribe narcotics more cautiously to their non-white patients. It would seem that if the patient is black, the doctor is more concerned about the patient becoming addicted, or maybe they’re more concerned about the patient selling their pills, or maybe they are less concerned about pain in that population.”

This statement raises questions that have sparked debates amongst many – when the African-American community struggled with crack cocaine in the 1980’s and 1990’s, policymakers focused more on arrests and drug-related charges than on providing resources and support. Many are disgruntled, resentful, and outraged – and rightly so – that white America has been shown more compassion than those struggling with addiction before.

A 2014 study conducted by researchers from Missouri and Florida found that nearly 90% of treatment-seeking patients who began using heroin in the past decade have been white, as opposed to more equal representation with minorities in the 1980’s. The opioid epidemic has allowed us to take compelling glance into the effect that stereotypes can have, as the fears that many doctors hold are inaccurate. In fact, a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy confirmed that white people are just as likely to sell drugs as black people – but black individuals are at an increased, disproportionate percentage of getting arrested in a primarily white neighborhood.

Drug use does not discriminate, and everyone needs support and compassion. Hopefully this epidemic will spark more conversation that helps incite these things.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery treatment center. If you’re ready to seek treatment from substance abuse, call us today at 888-743-0490 for a consultation. Recovery is possible and there are people who want to help you.