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Friday, May 18, 2018

Opioid Overdose Deaths Among Latinos

"I'm a serious addict," Julio Cesar Santiago (44), tells NPR. "I still have dreams where I'm about to use drugs, and I have to wake up and get on my knees and pray, 'let God take this away from me,' because I don't want to go back. I know that if I go back out there, I'm done."

The above quote is likely to resonate with anyone who lives with alcohol or substance use disorder and finds addiction recovery. In early recovery, most people kneel and pray regularly throughout the day; the gravitational pull of drugs and alcohol is a force to be reckoned with requiring eternal vigilance to prevent relapse. While all mind-altering substances carry inherent risks of injury and premature death, one could argue that opioids exist in a separate class with exponentially higher stakes.

The American opioid addiction epidemic remains as one of the chief public health concerns. Many of you are aware that roughly a hundred people perish from an overdose each day usually stemming from prescription opioids, heroin, or fentanyl (a synthetic opioid approximately a hundred times stronger than morphine). Almost 3 million American battle opioid use disorder, an estimate that some experts feel is probably conservative. One of the ways researchers develop stats on how many people are struggling with a condition is by the number of individuals that receive treatment. Given that the vast majority of people living with addiction never access care, it is hard to develop an accurate picture of the problem. Even still, we can confidently assert that more than 2 million people are bound to OUD in this country.

Opioid Use Disorder, Overdose, and Latinos


opioid use disorder
Most of the news about the epidemic focuses on the disproportionate number of non-Hispanic whites suffering from opioid use disorder and dying of an overdose. As a result, the media and many experts overlook specific demographics struggling with opioids, especially Latinos. In fact, research shows that opioid overdose deaths among Latinos is on the rise nationwide, and in Massachusetts, ODs are increasing at twice the rate of whites and blacks, according to NPR. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) reports that Latino overdose deaths rose 52.5 percent between 2014 and 2016, as compared to 45.8 percent for whites.

"What we thought initially, that this was a problem among non-Hispanic whites, is not quite accurate," says Robert Anderson, mortality statistics branch chief at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "If you go back into the data, you can see the increases over time in all of these groups, but we tended to focus on the non-Hispanic whites because the rates were so much higher."

It is challenging to extrapolate what's behind the surge in opioid overdose deaths among Blacks and Hispanics. After conducting scores of interviews with addicts, physicians, and treatment providers a more precise picture emerged; a lack of bilingual treatment options, cultural barriers, and possible deportation fears likely have a hand in the growing death toll. What’s more, NPR points out that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website is only available in English; however, they do offer a toll free number "for free and confidential information in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues." Mind you, that it's SAMHSA's responsibility to improve the quality and availability of treatment and rehabilitative services.


Opioid Use Disorder Treatment


If you are suffering from addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. We can help you end the cycle of addiction and provide you with the tools and skills necessary for achieving lasting recovery.

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