While there was a slight increase in the overall number of opioid-related deaths in the Commonwealth in 2020, an even more troubling statistic during the coronavirus pandemic concerns the number of drug overdose deaths among Black men.

Mass Live reports that according to a report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, overdose deaths among Black men jumped almost 70% during the pandemic.

Data from the DPH shows that there were 2,104 confirmed and suspected opioid-related overdose deaths in the state last year, a 5% increase over the prior year. However, Black non-Hispanic men in Massachusetts saw a 69% spike in overdose deaths over the last year, the highest increase of any ethnic group in 2020.

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State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel had this to say:

The disparities in overdose trends among Black men underscore the need to continue our public health-centered, data-driven approach to the opioid epidemic that is disproportionately impacting high-risk, high-need priority populations.

Preliminary data seems to suggest that 92% of overdose deaths in the state involve the drug fentanyl, an opioid synthetic that experts say is 100 times stronger than morphine.

According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in overdose deaths where a toxicology report was available, Fentanyl was present in 92% of them.

The fight against opioid use has been made even tougher in states across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. Overdose deaths have risen practically everywhere,  but Massachusetts was among the states with the smallest increases in all drug overdose deaths last year.

According to Dr. Bharel, the pandemic has pushed many who are dealing with substance abuse into isolation. This makes it harder for others to respond during an overdose situation with the necessary medication to counteract the effects of opioids.

For more on the story, please visit Mass Live's website here.

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