Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility
Close Alert

Overdose deaths among black Americans skyrocket in pandemic, study shows

Drugs like fentanyl have become a much bigger problem since the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lucy Nelson, News Channel 12)
Drugs like fentanyl have become a much bigger problem since the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lucy Nelson, News Channel 12)
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the country’s opioid addiction crisis everywhere across the United States, but data shows it was particularly deadly for black Americans.

A study done by researchers at UCLA analyzed 911 calls nationwide and found an overall increase of 42 percent in overdose deaths in 20-21, and the rate among Black people rose by 50 percent.

According to the study, not only did the pandemic play a role, but high incarceration rates of the black community, disparities in education. healthcare, and economic opportunities all point to the higher rates.

Counselor Roger Crouell said what we see on TV, like the murder of George Floyd is a factor.

“What you’re seeing on TV is our reality," Crouell said.

Crouell said many black people struggling with substance abuse tell him social injustices are a trigger.

“Now you see people with this systemic racism," he said, "In the black community, we, as a black man, even for myself, you can see the difference between the white counterpart in systemic racism, how we’re treated unjustly. Police brutality, we almost have a bullseye on our back and we have to watch ourselves every day.”

Outreach worker Alicia Brunelli works on the frontlines with drug addicts.

She hands out clean syringes and Narcan to those struggling with addiction, and she sees first-hand what the black community is dealing with.

“People of color, the cards have been stacked against them for generations," said Brunelli, "So if you’re already being stigmatized because of the color of your skin, when you’re struggling with mental health or current trauma or anything like that and your tools to cope aren’t necessarily the healthiest tools, you might go from substance user to substance abuser.”

Brunelli said use of the drug fetanyl picked up during the pandemic.

“You want to numb out," Crouell said, explaining what his clients experience, "And it only makes you use more what you’re using. Because you want to be heard and nobody’s here to hear you.”

He said it’s important more now than ever that we listen to those who feel unheard, and try to get them help, before it's too late.

“Get them to realize they have a problem and get them some help. Be supportive. Treatment is the only option," said Crouell.
Loading ...