Tensions continue to mount within Black America about perceived inequities between the federal government’s reaction to America’s current opioid crisis and its near 30-year ‘War On Drugs,’ which sparsely treated and disproportionately incarcerated African Americans in the throes of drug addiction in metropolitan areas.
The circle of patients gathered for group therapy at a doctor’s family practice in McKenzie, Tennessee, could well represent the face of the state’s opioid epidemic. They were in a small city in a rural county, fertile ground for prescription drug addiction, though they traveled from as far as Nashville and Missouri.
But Howard University is looking to the contemporary crisis as a point for national dialog, today announcing a symposium to address catalysts and solutions for the growing epidemic to be held this Thursday in Cramton Auditorium.
The symposium will invite members across the university’s academic schools and departments to provide institutional perspective on opioid overdosing, a public health emergency which has killed more than 300,000 people over the last 17 years but with rates which historically have been low among racial minorities.
Dr. Phillip Coffin compares naloxone — the drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses — to seat belts. Seat belts can prevent drivers and passengers from dying in a car crash, but seat belts can’t prevent the crashes themselves.
“The devastating impact that opioid addiction has had on communities throughout this country requires that we identify collaborative and comprehensive solutions to address this epidemic,” said Howard University Provost Anthony K. Wutoh, Ph.D., R.Ph. “Howard University is poised to convene leaders in various disciplines to take a step forward in finding solutions to this crisis.”
In states like Ohio, opioid use and related deaths are climbing among African Americans.
The nation’s opioid addiction crisis has largely been considered a problem for white people, many of whom have fallen prey to abuse of prescription painkillers and have migrated to fentanyl and heroin, often in rural areas such as Appalachia.