Treatment for opioid use disorder (oud) is woefully inadequate across the country, but African-Americans often face extra barriers. Studies have found that medications for treating oud, as well as naloxone (a life-saving medication that reverses opioid overdoses), are doled out unevenly. A study of data from Medicaid, the government insurance programme for the poor, across several states with some of the highest opioid-overdose rates found that between 2014 and 2018 black people with oud were 28% less likely to use oud medications.
Studies in various cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, suggest that African-Americans have less access to naloxone, too. In Detroit between 2019 and 2020, white addicts received 28% of naloxone administrations, though they accounted for 17% of the city’s opioid overdoses; although 80% of overdoses were among black people, they received only 67% of naloxone administrations. This does not necessarily mean black addicts are being denied naloxone. Those who use opioids alone, are homeless or live in communities with little trust in first responders might be less likely to call for help.
Such disparities strengthen the case for local interventions that deal with the unique hurdles certain communities face. Other solutions are more sweeping, like expanding access to Medicaid and reducing red tape around oud medications. But underlying all these is a straightforward calculus that applies to all Americans, black or white: “It has to be easier to get treated than it is to continue using,” says Dr Kolodny. “You have to flip it.”
African-Americans used to be far less affected. But that has changed https://t.co/lyAbakVt5M
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) April 9, 2022