A Descriptive Study of Racial and Ethnic Differences of Drug Overdoses and Naloxone Administration in Pennsylvania


Introduction: Drug overdose is a significant public health problem, yet little is known about racial/ethnic differences in drug overdose rates and/or in responses to a drug overdose following naloxone administration. This paper examines differences in rates of survivorship, response, revival and administration of naloxone by race and ethnicity among those who experienced a drug overdose in Pennsylvania between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019. Spatio-temporal variations in drug overdose locations were examined to facilitate understanding of service development, planning, and delivery of effective treatment need. Methods: Ten thousand two hundred and ninety drug overdose incidents were analyzed from the Pennsylvania Overdose Information Network (ODIN). The ODIN is a centralized repository that contains information on drug overdoses victims including age, gender and race/ethnicity, naloxone administrations and survivorship, drug(s) suspected of causing the overdose, victim outcomes (e.g. hospitalizations and arrests) and average naloxone dosage per victim. Between group differences were tested using {$chi$}2 -tests of independence. Multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate the predicted probability of survivorship according to victim characteristics. All statistical analyses and mapping were performed using the R statistical programming environment. Results: About eighty-seven percent of drug overdose response victims were white, and seventy-one percent were between the ages of 20textendash 39. White females were more likely to receive an overdose response compared to black or Hispanic females. A non-opioid was indicated more frequently in overdoses involving black victims compared to either whites or Latinos. Latinos and blacks were more likely to survive a drug overdose. However, following naloxone administration, no racial or ethnic differences in survivorship were noted. Differences in responsiveness to naloxone and transitions to care following the drug overdose event were also found. Finally, overdoses among Blacks and Latinos demonstrated a stronger spatial patterning across counties compared to whites. Conclusions: This study found a significant, disparate impact of race/ethnicity on fatal drug overdoses when naloxone is not administered. Further, individuals who were administered naloxone and subsequently received medical care in a hospital experienced lower drug-related mortality, suggesting that first responders are critical intervention points for individuals in need of medical treatment following a drug overdose. However, while naloxone administration is a necessary first step in the recovery process, longitudinal pathways towards treatment are critical to stem the drug overdose crisis.

International Journal of Drug Policy, 78 102718. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102718