Academic Publications

Exploring the Impact of the Opioid Epidemic in Black and Hispanic Communities in the United States

Jasmine Drake | Creaque Charles | Jennifer W Bourgeois | Elycia S Daniel | Melissa Kwende


This paper examines trends in opioid overdose deaths among Black and Hispanic populations in the U.S. and compares the response to the current opioid epidemic to past “wars” on drugs affecting minorities. It finds sharp rises in opioid deaths among minorities, arguing the response should be rehabilitative and culturally sensitive.

Key Takeaways

  • From 1999-2017, there were major increases in opioid deaths among Blacks (3.5 to 12.9 per 100,000) and Hispanics (3.5 to 6.8 per 100,000).
  • Synthetic opioids like fentanyl drove large death increases, especially for Blacks (90-fold increase).
  • The U.S. response to the epidemic in white communities has focused on treatment rather than criminalization, unlike past “wars” on minority drug use.
  • More culturally sensitive, affordable treatment options are needed for minorities affected by the opioid epidemic.
  • Monitoring programs and reporting requirements should be strengthened to understand and respond better.