In 2017 in New York City, opioid overdose-related death rates for black and Latino people were highest in middle-aged and older adults, and in white people, these rates were highest in young and middle-aged adults, according to results published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The study used death certificate data from the New York City Office of Vital Statistics and toxicology files from the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Deaths were considered as overdose if the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined an accidental matter of death and assigned the cause of death an International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, code X40 through X44, F11 through F16, or F8 or F19 (excluding F-codes with a 0.2 or 0.6 third digit).
Race and ancestry were obtained from the death certificate and were coded as 1 of the 4 following categories: non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Latino, and undefined/other. The researchers calculated the number of deaths, age-adjusted rates per 100,000 people, and standard errors.
In 2017, 1487 deaths from overdose occurred in New York City. Of these, 37.0% (n=556) occurred in whites, 28.0% (n=421) in blacks, 31.0% (n=455) in Latinos, and 4.0% (n=55) in other racial/ethnic groups. In people aged 15 to 34 years, heroin and/or fentanyl overdose death rates per 100,000 New Yorkers were higher among whites (22.2 deaths per 100,000) compared with blacks (5.8 deaths per 100,000) or Latinos (9.7 deaths per 100,000). In individuals aged 55 to 84 years, heroin and/or fentanyl overdose death rates were higher in blacks (25.4 deaths per 100,000) compared with whites (9.4 deaths per 100,000). Blacks aged 55 to 84 years had significantly higher cocaine overdose death rates per 100,000 New Yorkers (25.4 deaths per 100,000) compared with whites (5.1 deaths per 100,000) and Latinos (11.8 deaths per 100,000).
“The distinct age distribution and drug involvement of overdose deaths among New York City blacks, Latinos, and whites, along with complementary evidence about drug use trajectories, highlight the need for heterogeneous approaches to treatment and the equitable allocation of treatment and health care resources to reach diverse populations at risk of overdose,” the researchers noted.
Allen B, Nolan ML, Kunnis HV, Paone D. Racial differences in opioid overdose deaths in New York City, 2017. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(4):576-578.