In American culture and politics, drug use, drug dealing, and drug overdosing have (for decades) been repeatedly purported to be endemic in Black communities. This belief is so deeply ingrained that many Americans (including New Yorkers) unhesitatingly rationalize support for packing addiction programs and harm reduction services in communities of color as self-evidently serving a racial/community need. Simultaneously, drug overdose rates have quickly become routinely employed as the metric to address in popular and professional discourse around addiction treatment programs, safe consumption sites, harm reduction groups, and community public safety.
The latest data from a New York City’s Department of Health report, EPI Data Brief on Unintentional Drug Poisoning (Overdose) Deaths in New York City in 2020, shows that the popular assumption that the opioid crisis is a Black crisis, is simply incorrect. There is no significant statistical difference in the rates of opioid-involved overdose deaths for Black, White, and Latino/a New Yorkers.
(The only statistically valid racial anomaly in the data is found in the Asian/Pacific Islander community which is significantly lower at 3.3 per 100,000.)