As the battle against COVID-19 took center stage over the last two years, another health crisis — drug-related overdoses — was worsening, particularly in the Hispanic community.
Overdose deaths among Hispanic residents in Nevada increased by 120 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to data released in October by the state Department of Health and Human Services. That surge is more than double the 55 percent increase in overdose deaths statewide during the same period.
The Nevada State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS) reported that there were 788 unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2020, compared with 510 in 2019. SUDORS uses death certificates and coroner reports, including post-mortem toxicology testing results, to gather information on fatal overdoses.
Elyse Monroy, program manager for the Nevada Overdose Data to Action program (which oversees the surveillance of opioid overdoses in the state) said she was shocked to see the sharp increase in overdose deaths. Hispanic residents made up nearly 20 percent of Nevada’s recorded overdoses in 2020, up from 13 percent in 2019.
She said she was surprised because monthly non-fatal reports never showed “even a little tiny increase” in reported drug-related visits by Hispanic individuals to the emergency room in 2020.
A nationwide study on fatal drug overdose rates before and during the COVID-19 pandemic published in March shows that all racial and ethnic groups examined had increases in drug overdose mortality rates in 2020 compared to 2019. The increase was higher than any prior year between 1999 and 2019.
Though reported drug overdose rates among Hispanic or Latino individuals were lower than that of other demographic groups, the report indicated that Latinos saw a large increase (40.1 percent) in drug overdose rates in 2020 compared to the prior year.
The overdose mortality rate in Black individuals increased by nearly 50 percent, the largest percentage increase. The study also showed that American Indian or Alaska Native individuals experienced the highest rate of overdoses among the demographic groups.
Unintentional drug poisoning deaths, or overdoses, include cases where a drug or too much of a drug was taken accidentally, or the wrong drug was given or taken.
Read the entire article: Overdoses among Hispanics spiked in 2020; advocates point to lack of services, stigma
The portion of the article is shared as part of our collaboration with The Nevada Independent. This story was originally published on March 25, 2022 and written by Jannelle Calderon.