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Regional News

New study shows people of color more likely to die early from opioid overdoses

Washington state-ambulance graphic
Courtesy WSU Insider

The WSU research drew from Washington state mortality statistics from 2011-2018.

A new Washington State University study finds people of color in the state are more likely to die earlier in life from an opioid overdose. Researcher Solmaz Amiri and her team reviewed more than five thousand death certificates from 2011 to 2018, provided by the Washington Department of Health.

She says overdose victims who were white died, on average, at the age of 45. People of other ethnic groups died, on average, between the ages of 33 and 44.

“Some of this could be related to having access to things like stable housing, educational opportunities, the employment and income that follows those educational opportunities, access to health care services. A lot of Hispanics and American Indians, Alaska Natives, live in rural areas. So how accessible are health care services for this population?” she said.

Amiri says researchers determined there were a few commonalities among the older victims. One, they were employed. Two, they didn’t live alone.

“People who are married or living with a partner, they have kind of more social support, so those people tend to live longer or just not die at a younger age," she said.

Amiri says addicts who were able to attend drug treatment programs near them tended to live longer.

She says her team is now reviewing the state’s overdose death records for 2019 to 2021.

“We want to see if the pandemic made these disparities worse," Amiri said.

She says the latest figures show American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest overdose death rates. Blacks have surpassed whites in overdose deaths.

Amiri’s research was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.