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Spike in Overdose Deaths of Young White Americans

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Spike in Overdose Deaths of Young White Americans

Sharply reduced drug-related death rates among African Americans is a sharp contrast to the recent spike in overdose deaths of young white Americans.  Accompanying this demographic shift are significant changes in judicial penalties and health care funding support that was unheard of when the prevailing image of drug addicts was that of young black men from poverty stricken inner city neighborhoods. 

As drug overdose deaths rise in young white Americans from middle to affluent families, the message, according to a white senator whose vote can help or hinder drug overdose legislation, is that no one is exempt. According to reports, of the 38,000 drug overdose deaths that occur annually in the United States, whites made up the majority of the diseased. Based on police records and coroner’s report, young white men and women overdose at twice the rate of blacks and Hispanics.  And, when it comes to prescription opioids, this number is tripled among whites.  While the reason for this increase is not clear, experts attribute it, at least in part, to the fact that more white Americans have access to prescription drugs. Studies also indicate that white patients with pain are more likely to be prescribed opioid painkillers, and they are more likely to attempt suicide when faced with physical or mental hardships.

Recent Reforms 

This alarming statistic has not gone unnoticed by advocates with political influence and power. As such, the drug epidemic sweeping the country is no longer seen as an inner city ghetto problem, but one with serious long-term consequences for the children of affluent members of society.  As a result, the following reforms have already been enacted to counter the drug-related death toll:

  • Passing of the 911 Good Samaritan laws. At least 14 states now make it easier for anyone to call 911 to report an overdose without being penalized by the police.
  • Policy changes in at least 13 states provide access to the opioid reversal agent Naloxone.
  • Lifting of restrictions on long-standing stance against providing funding for needle exchange programs.
  • Drug Court Programs that enable eligible drug addicts to participate in drug addiction treatment programs in lieu of jail time. Drug Courts that mandate participation in treatment for a minimum of one year provide sufficient time for recovery to occur, as well as minimize relapse rates. In addition to providing intensive drug addiction intervention care, Drug Court programs offer other services that help people who suffer from addiction to maintain their sobriety.

Changes Taking Place

Increased funding and scientific research into the cause and effect of drug addiction has also enabled a change in the definition of substance addiction from a moral problem to a medical condition.  Technological advancements have also spearheaded the development of various pharmacological interventions, mobile apps, computerized and internet programs, plus the incorporation of more therapeutic remedies such as the dual diagnosis treatment program. Essentially, these changes have shifted society’s focus on drug addiction from punishment to prevention. The expansion and promotions of federally-sponsored national and community-based initiatives, such as the Drug Free Communities Support Program, are geared towards helping high school and college students who happen to be at the greatest risk of experimenting with drugs and the prime target for drug pushers. Other drug prevention programs that have come on board to facilitate greater awareness of the horrific effects of addiction and curb rampant non-medical use of prescription drugs includes:

  • Prescription Drug Take Back Day
  • Changes in the way prescription drugs are dispensed by doctors
  • Improvements to the Drug Abuse Resistant Education Program (D.A.R.E.)
  • Various month long Drug Addiction Awareness programs

Despite these initiatives, the death rate for every age group among whites has continued to grow.  In fact, between 2009 and 2013, drug overdose deaths among whites increased so fast that it wiped out the benefits that should have been achieved from technological advancements, policy changes, enhancements in addiction treatment and new pharmacological interventions. If you or someone you care about is addicted to drugs, get help for them today. By contacting a rehab center, you can learn more about the recovery process and speak to an addiction specialist who can help you find a drug rehab program in your area. Don’t wait any longer. Call now. 

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