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Uptick in Opioid Addiction among Latinos

The year 2020 brought many dramatic changes to the lives of everyone around the world, but the pandemic is only at the surface of alarming new statistics. It seems that communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and a recent spike in opioid misuse. The factors behind this new concerning trend in data are complex but essential to dissect for understanding on how to better help the people who are most in need.

Opioid Overdose Deaths among the Hispanic Population

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) labels the recent opioid crisis spike among the Hispanic and Latino population as an “urgent issue” in a recent special report released in 2020. With the added stress of the coronavirus pandemic causing financial strains, confinement, and depression, many people have been reaching towards substance misuse to cope with the looming feelings of uncertainty. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this has caused opioid overdose deaths to skyrocket by a historic 16.9% nationally.

While the full range of data for 2020 is incomplete for the months after May 2020, the ongoing pandemic is causing a troubling rise in overdose death cases among Latinos in many states. In Maryland alone, the Opioid Operational Command Center reported that opioid-related deaths among Latinos between January and September 2020 increased a worrying 27.3%. The most commonly associated substances linked to these deaths appear to be fentanyl and methamphetamine, or a mixture of the two. This is likely due to the heroin shortage caused by the pandemic and prevalence of fentanyl on the street, which is more potent and cheaper than heroin and much easier to produce due to its completely synthetic chemical makeup.

Barriers to Treatment

Those suffering from opioid addiction in the Latino community deal with various challenges that prevent them from getting the help they need. Immigrants, especially those lacking legal status, are often afraid to seek medical treatment of any kind, much less so when illicit substances are involved. The pandemic has also complicated matters over the past year, closing many medical and addiction treatment facilities across the nation due to restrictions and relying on telehealth services to help patients.

Economic factors are also listed as a barrier for many Latinos in need of help. Taking time away to treat addiction may mean losing work and not being able to provide for their families. Mental health is another concern among Latino adults, among whom symptoms of depression are reported 59% more frequently than non-Hispanic whites, and approximately 37% of Hispanics surveyed reported an increase in substance use recently.

The stigma surrounding addiction and mental health continues to be a profound element that prevents Latinos from seeking help. Mental illness and substance misuse often go hand in hand, and one condition fuels the other in a cyclical pattern. This makes comprehensive addiction treatment so vital to helping the communities that are more heavily affected.

Recovery Services of New Mexico is dedicated to providing Latinos in the community with access to adequate and affordable addiction treatment. There is hope for recovery from opioid addiction; taking a step towards treatment is one phone call or message away. Our conveniently located outpatient facilities are waiting for your call today and may be able to provide Spanish-speaking assistance upon request.


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