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Is Opioid-Addiction Racist?

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Recent media reports have given significant attention to the spread of opioid addiction in suburban America. We can no longer view drug addiction as an inner-city issue that affects a small portion of the population. Opioids have infested middle-class white families, upper-class athletes fighting injuries, and everyone in between.

The prevalence of these drugs have become so great that over 2 million Americans are currently struggling with opioid use disorder, and each day 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose.

With our focus on the widespread effects of the opioid epidemic, we may be overlooking some of the facts.

According to a report from the Chicago Urban League, opioid addiction is not a white suburbia problem. The report suggests that far more African Americans are suffering from opioid addiction than many believe.

The Numbers

The Chicago report indicates the opioid death rate among African Americans in Chicago was 56% higher than for Caucasians in 2016. Additionally, last year, the overdose rate for African Americans in Illinois more than doubled.

Further evidence suggests an imbalanced ratio of drug addiction. While Chicago’s population is 32% African American, this segment of the population accounted for 48% of opioid deaths in the city. Additionally, African Americans make up only 15% of the state’s population, but accounted for nearly 25% of opioid deaths in Illinois. These alarming numbers indicate a disproportionate number of African Americans suffer from opioid addiction.

The Finances

What causes these discrepancies? One factor is probably income.

Research has shown that drug use is more common among people in lower socioeconomic classes or those living in poverty. This is typically due to the lifestyle led by those who have little financial means.

Despite efforts for equality, we still experience a significant imbalance between races and wealth. In 2014, the median white household income was just over $71K. In sharp contrast, the median household income for African Americans was around $43K.

The Treatment

The statistics regarding drug addiction and deaths are not the only concerning pieces of the Chicago report. It also claims that the response to drug addiction is unequal. In the suburbs and among whites, the main approach to drug addiction is to respond with treatment. However, in the city of Chicago, among African Americans, the main strategy implemented is arrest and prosecution.

The Racism?

So, is opioid addiction racist? Clearly, the entire nation is in desperate need of healing from this epidemic. Based on the unequal distribution of suffering, we may have some other issues that need to be addressed as well.

  • https://www.cbsnews.com/news/opioids-chicago-death-rate-higher-among-african-americans-report/, https://leanforward.hms.harvard.edu/2017/05/03/waiting-for-addiction-treatment-a-deadly-proposition/, http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/drug-addiction/economic-status/, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/06/27/1-demographic-trends-and-economic-well-being/

  • Addictions