The Hidden Drug Crisis in America

The Hidden Drug Crisis in America


Much has been written about the epidemic of opioid use in America. As a class of drugs – opioids are killing at a stunning rate.

But has the focus on opioids obscured an equally vexing and deadly problem?

According to new research just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, cocaine-related overdose deaths among African Americans and Hispanics are now nearly as high as overdose deaths caused by opioids among whites.

And cocaine’s death toll among whites is not inconsequential.

In general, the research illustrates that while overdose deaths from all drugs are rising for all ethnic groups, the rate increases were greatest among African American men 50 years of age or older, and African American women 45 years of age or older.

The drug doing the greatest harm to this cohort?


Interestingly – according to the study’s authors, there were too few overdose deaths among Asian Americans to draw any conclusions about which drugs were a problem for this group.

Meredith Shiels, one of the study authors said; “in the most recent years studied, 2012 to 2015, cocaine overdose deaths were almost as common in black men as prescription opioid deaths in white men and slightly more common in black women than deaths from heroin overdose in white women.”

What’s unclear is what’s causing this spike in cocaine-related deaths. That question has researchers puzzled.

Another take away from the report… Peak ages for overdose deaths seem to vary by ethnic group. The highest rates for whites appear to be in the 30-to-34 group, while the highest rates for African Americans are among the 50-to-59 group.

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