January 13, 2022

Opioid deaths surging in older Black men

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

In this study from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, researchers find a roughly tenfold increase in opioid deaths in adults 55 years and older, driven primarily by overdoses in Black men.

Analyzing data on 79,893 individuals aged 55 years and older who died from opioid overdose between 1999 and 2019, the researchers found the annual overall death rate per 100,000 persons ranged from 0.9 in 1999 to 10.7 in 2019, a tenfold increase, and increased annually from 2000 on. Substantial variations by gender, race, and ethnicity were found.


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In 2013, the death rate due to opioid overdose in Black men began to diverge from the other demographic subgroups. By 2019, the opioid overdose death rate in Black men was 40.03 per 100,000 population, which is four times greater than the overall opioid overdose death rate of 10.70 per 100,000 for persons of the same age.

The results suggest a need for increased screening for substance abuse in older adults, the researchers say. Further investigation is needed to find the reasons for the disparities.

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