Last year, the New York Times published a piece asking “30 experts to think big, but realistically, about solutions […] to address the opioid crisis.” Almost all of the experts were white. A clear majority were white men, and the panel appeared to include zero Black men.

8 Mar 2019

The article, written by a white guy, credits two other white guys—Dr. Daniel Ciccarone and Dr. Tom Frieden—for “their help on assembling the panel.”

The makeup of the panel was disturbing. But it wasn’t shocking, given that the “opioid crisis” has been largely painted as a whitephenomenon by the national media. That story, though, is false.

National overdose death rates were still overall higher among white people than Black people as of 2017—but the gap is narrowing. And fast-rising overdose rates are far too high among the Black population. National figures also mask heightened risk faced by many specific Black population groups.

Opioid-involved overdose deaths among Black men aged 40-69, for example, increased 245 percent from 2014 to 2017. According to the CDC, drug overdose fatalities increased among Black people in urban settings by 41 percent in 2016, outpacing all other racial groups. The number of opioid-related deaths among Black people has grown higher than that of the general population in numerous states such as Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Washington, DC. In New York City, Black overdose rates have recently outstripped white ones.

And when it comes to the legal consequences of drug use, grotesque disparities remain. Black people are arrested for possession of illicit drugs at more than twice the rate of white people and arrested for selling at more than triple that rate, though Black and white people use and sell illicit drugs at similar rates. And the sentences meted out to people of color are on average four years longer than those for white people with the same charge.

When the New York Times or anyone else next wants to talk to drug policy experts, we encourage them to take a look at this list from DPA, which will be updated throughout the month.

Read full story and see list here 

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