Opioid crisis affects all

During the third annual Opioid Symposium at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts and Community Center in Decatur, Dr. Sharon Harley said America’s opioid crisis is affecting more than just the White population.

Harley said there’s a misconception in society that opioids mainly affect White, rural communities, but that’s not true, she said.

“What we do know is that when it comes to death by opioid overdose, in the African-American population, we are now starting to close the gap. This is something we need to look at,” Harley said.

According to a report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, opioids are the most common cause of overdose deaths in the United States among all races and ethnicities. In 2016, the drug-related mortality rate (per 100,000) for Whites was 25.3, Blacks 17.1 and Hispanics 9.5.

Harley said medical bias may have played a role in “saving” Blacks from the opioid crisis in its early stages but said now it’s clear the crisis is affecting all communities.

“When the medical provider does not look like you, they tend to be more biased in prescribing opioids, so [Black] people don’t get prescribed as many prescription drugs,” Harley said. “Over a period of time it looks as though the black market has grown and narcotics dealers are mixing synthetic opioids like fentanyl and the death rate is catching up to the White population.”

The Opioid Symposium was hosted by DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson. Organizations such as Aetna, National Association of Counties, Fulton DeKalb Hospital Authority and Morehouse School of Medicine partnered with Johnson for the event.

Johnson said the opioid crisis must be taken seriously. According to an investigation by the Associated Press and Center for Public Integrity, approximately 227 million opioid prescriptions were issued in the United States in 2015 generating opioid sales of $9.6 billion. Approximately 356,000 Americans died of drug overdoses between 2006 and 2014, according to the report.

Johnson said his third Opioid Symposium addressed how youth are impacted by the crisis.

“If family members are going through this addiction, then they are all going to be impacted by it. The youth need to know the signs and symptoms of addiction and what steps they can take to help their family recover,” Johnson said.

Johnson said his fourth opioid symposium will discuss addiction and how it affects opioid providers, public safety personnel and family members.

“I’m here to educate the people of color about this disease and let them know this is something that impacts everybody,” Johnson said. “We can now have a discussion with every group and ask ourselves, ‘where do we go from here?’”

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