FeaturedHealthNewsThe NorthSider

Heroin overdoses on the rise in Missouri, blacks die at higher rates

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin use and deaths from heroin overdoses have been increasing in Missouri since at least 2013. Data reported in 2016 showed a rate of more than 15 heroin related deaths per 100,000 people in the state, compared to a national average of about 13 deaths per 100,000 people.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse estimates that one person dies everyday from a heroin overdose in the St. Louis area.

Recent ad campaigns, including some controversial ads run during the Super Bowl during the past four years, point out that heroin use is especially prevalent in affluent, White communities. While there have been myriad information campaigns focused on tackling the crisis in those communities, users outside of those communities have largely been left out of the conversations around treatment and intervention.

As a result, Black Americans are three times more likely to die from an overdose compared to White Americans in Missouri, and they are less likely to seek treatment for opioid use.

According to Dr. Kanika Turner, attending physician at Family Care Health Center and consulting physician to the Missouri Opioid State Target Response team, this phenomenon can be tackled head on by providing information in a destigmatizing and open manner.

Turner and others involved in the fight against the heroin epidemic have championed the use of Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a drug that can reverse an overdose in a matter of seconds.

Local nonprofit Missouri Network distributed hundreds of doses in 2018 and continues to spread information and lifesaving treatment in 2019.

Joy Leopold

Joy Leopold is a visiting assistant professor in Webster University's School of Communication. She graduated from the University of Miami with a PhD in Journalism and Media Management.

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