Racial Trends in Prescription Opioid Use Reflect Disparities, Undertreatment

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People of color were less likely to be prescribed opioids in the late 1990s, when they became widely available for pain treatment, according to a new study by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health. . However, by the mid-2000s, prescription opioid use among blacks matched that of whites, despite much of the attention and resources of the opioid crisis focused on white populations.

The results, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, illustrate racial disparities in prescribing new drugs – and perhaps even undertreatment, especially for Hispanics who were less likely to take prescription opioids.

Opioids were historically prescribed to treat cancer pain and pain after surgery. But in the late 1990s, several factors led to the growth in opioid use: aggressive marketing by drug companies, the increase in chronic pain, campaigns to improve pain management, and relaxation of statute of limitations.

Around 2004, prescription opioids replaced other pain relievers as the primary form of pain management, which we now know led to an explosion of overdoses. New prescribing restrictions in the 2010s triggered a drop in opioid prescriptions, although many opioid addicts turned to non-prescription sources like heroin.

To understand whether these trends in opioid use varied by race and ethnicity, researchers analyzed the use of prescription opioids and other pain relievers in 250,596 U.S. adults using data collected. by the federal government between 1996 and 2017. They confirmed that prescriptions for opioids and other pain relievers differed between black, Hispanic, and white adults.

In 1996, prescription opioid use was highest among whites (11.9%), compared to blacks (9.3%) and Hispanics (9.6%). At this point, whites were slightly more likely to use opioids than non-opioid pain relievers, but blacks and Hispanics were much more likely to use non-opioid pain relievers.

“In the late 1990s, doctors weren’t prescribing opioids to people of color with the same frequency as they prescribed them to their white patients,” said Virginia Chang, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU. School of Global Public Health. “While this study does not measure whether these disparities stem from prescribing practices, patient preferences, or some other reason, previous research shows that under-represented racial groups are less likely to receive new prescription drugs. “

In the early 2000s, prescription opioid use increased by race and ethnicity, eclipsing the use of non-opioid pain relievers among blacks and whites. By the mid-2000s, prescription opioid use was as prevalent among blacks as it was among whites and remained so until 2017. Following the adoption of prescription limits in the 2010s, use prescription opioids decreased in all groups.

“Media coverage of opioid use often differs by race and ethnicity, where prescription opioid abuse is described as primarily affecting whites, and illicit opioids are associated with people of color.” , added Chang, co-author of the research with Gawon Cho, a Ph.D. student at the NYU School of Global Public Health. “However, blacks were as likely as whites to use prescription opioids in the mid-2000s and 2010s, suggesting that they may also be at increased risk for prescription misuse.”

In contrast, prescription opioid use among Hispanics remained lower than that of other groups throughout the 2000s and 2010. Although low opioid use may protect against abuse (Hispanics have had fewer overdose deaths than blacks or whites), this could also represent under-treatment of this population. Previous studies have shown that even with comparable pain, Hispanics are less likely to receive opioids than whites or blacks.


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More information:
Gawon Cho et al, Trends in prescription opioid and non-opioid analgesic use by race, 1996-2017, American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.amepre.2021.08.016

Provided by New York University

Quote: Racial Trends in Prescription Opioid Use Reflect Disparities, Undertreatment (2021, December 7) Retrieved December 7, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-12-racial-trends- prescription-opioid-disparities.html

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