Fentanyl opioid has Black Americans dying in record numbers
Michelle Branch holds a pamphlet from the memorial service of her younger brother, Craig Elazer, 56, who died from a fentanyl overdose. Photograph: Brynn Anderson/AP
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Fentanyl, the potent synthetic opioid that Mexican drug cartels now mix into many of the street drugs sold in the U.S. is having a devastating community impact, according to a new peer-reviewed study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

According to NPR, this research which is based on drug deaths from 1999 through 2020, is the most recent comprehensive overdose data available.

“People who are lower down on the social hierarchy tend to be exposed to fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids at disproportionate rates,” says Dr. Helena Hansen, a co-author of the report.

Fentanyl is a community killer.

As a consequence, “You find Black Americans are exposed to fentanyl more often than White Americans,” she says.

On reviewing the demographic study conducted at UCLA, Dr. Stephen Taylor with the American Society of Addiction Medicine says the data suggests the Black community may bear the brunt of the next phase of the opioid epidemic.

“Overdose rates have been growing fastest among Black communities,” says Joseph Friedman, an addiction researcher at UCLA. “For the first time, we see them overtaking the overdose rate among White individuals.”

SNOWFALL is happening IRL: This time it’s fentanyl.

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the situation has grown even worse.

Friedman says the biggest factor leading to dramatically higher overdose deaths among Black people with substance use disorder is pretty simple: “The illicit drug supply, the street drug supply, is becoming more and more toxic.”

Fatal overdoses topped 100,000 for the first time in 2021.

“As a member of the Black community and as an addiction treatment specialist … I’m terrified of that prospect, but that’s exactly what we could be facing,” Taylor says. “A larger percentage of this next million [deaths] will be Black and other people of color.”

As the 80s crack era ravaged the Black community throughout America, the local and federal response was to incarcerate drug users as neighborhoods destroyed themselves from the inside out. Today, the same is true with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a community killer.

Captured on camera, first lady Nancy Reagan once infamously attended a South Central police raid to nab drug sellers and users. Black victimization through the camera lens has been seen far too often. By 2020, COPS was the longest-running reality TV show in U.S. history. During its peak, it was all too common to see Black drug addicts treated far worse than their White counterparts.

The Podcast Running From Cops,  a result of 18 months of research and more than 100 interviews, raises questions about how “Cops” portrays low-income people and minorities.

When Blacks are addicted, we are jailed. When Whites are addicted, they are consoled. The clinics and rehab institutes were absent during the crack cocaine era. Perhaps if it had been addressed then, we wouldn’t have the same problem now with fentanyl.

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...