A study published in 2021 examining the racial and ethnic disparities in opioid‑related mortality in the United States found that the opioid-related mortality rate among Black Washington, DC residents is nearly 12 times higher than the opioid-related mortality rate among white DC residents.

The inequities observed in Washington, DC, however, do not coincide with trends across the country. The study found that, in most states, the opioid-related mortality rate is higher in white populations and opioid-related mortality rates for the white and Black populations tend to increase together at similar rates across different opioid types. Yet, in 2019, the observed opioid-related mortality rate in Washington, DC’s Black population exceeded the white population by a factor of 11 (61.5 vs. 5.5 per 100,000). The study also observed a three-year period of extremely rapid increases in synthetic opioid mortality among Black DC residents from 2013 to 2016 (annual percentage change of 258%). It found that synthetic opioid mortality among Black residents remains nearly 12 times higher than the rate of opioid mortality among white residents (54.3 per 100,000 vs. 4.6 per 100,000).

The researchers attribute the inequity in opioid‑related mortality rates to the rapidly changing landscape from gentrification and increased segregation in Washington, DC. They concluded that the alarming disparities highlight the need to tailor interventions to specific areas, contexts, most impacted populations, and opioid types to effectively address opioid use and reduce opioid poisonings.

Read the study here.