Experts Say The U.S. Opioid Overdose Epidemic Could Be Due To Racial Stereotypes

By Staff Writer

Jan 26, 2016 04:05 AM EST

The increasing of opioid overdose epidemic in the U.S. may be caused by racial stereotypes according to a chief opioid addiction expert. 

There is a growth in the number of white Americans who die because of drug overdoses, while the rate remains the same among black Americans and Hispanics. According to Business Insider, the rate in 2014 is two times higher than in 2002.    

The chief medical officer for The Phoenix House and a leading expert on opioid addiction, Dr. Andrew Kolodny stated has suggested that there might be a correlation between the way some doctors give prescriptions on opioid pain killers to patients, which is influenced by racist stereotypes.

He said, "What's happening is we're overexposing whites to prescription opioids. Doctors prescribe narcotics more cautiously to black patients. It appeared the doctor may be more worried about addiction or diversion of the pills onto the black market if the patient was black and if the patient is white, they're overprescribing."

There was an important finding in a 2003 study as published in The American Journal of Public Health. It showed that white patients were more likely to get opioid painkillers prescriptions for back pain and migraines than black patients.  

In Vox, it mentions what has become the possibility. Doctors did not give drugs to treat pain for black patients to prevent them from selling the drugs illegally. On the other hand, doctors were more lenient to white patients. This is what the racist stereotype has done to the growing number of opioid overdose epidemic among white Americans.    

White Americans, who had used the drugs, then became addicted and sooner or later would replace the drugs with cheaper ones, including heroin, to satisfy their addiction.

A study in 2014 published in JAMA Psychiatry suggested that almost 90 percent of patients who looked for treatments, and then started to use heroin during the last decade were white Americans. This is a huge change compared to the 1980s.

As stated in The Diane Rehm Show , the number of death among Americans from drug overdose epidemic in 2014 is no less than 47,000. The Southwest and Appalachia were the worst, according to the CDC report. However, the rate in every county is getting higher. President Obama, political leaders, and local officials have pushed more efforts to be done to address the issue.       

Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of National Institute on Drug Abuse of NIH, said, "The prescription of opioids is basically -- has increased dramatically since 2000. And in parallel to this increase, there has not been an increase in the training and education of medical students or providers on how to properly manage pain and how to properly prescribe opioids."

She continued, "And unfortunately, the data has shown us that that's not the case and that approximately 10 percent of patients that are prescribed these medications will become addicted. And this risk increases, of course, if the prescription is to teenagers."

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