Substance Abuse

Photo credit: DataHaven Greater New Haven Community Index 2016

Risk Factor: Substance Abuse

The U.S. is currently in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic. More people are dying from drug overdoses than ever before, and the majority of these deaths involve the misuse of opioid pain relievers (either prescription opioids or illicit opioids such as heroin). Although addiction is thought of as an “equal opportunity disease” that affects communities everywhere, minority and low-income communities are disproportionately burdened by the consequences of drug use. Limited access to treatment, job and housing insecurity, higher rates of incarceration, and the stigmatization of addiction all contribute to poorer health outcomes for marginalized populations. 

  • On an average day in the U.S., 78 people die from an opioid-related overdose. The highest rate of misuse and abuse mortality is seen among males, persons aged 20-64, white non-Hispanics, poor and rural populations, and persons with mental illness.16 
  • Drug-overdose death rates have increased by 23% for persons without a high school education compared to 4% for those with a college degree or more17 
  • Roughly half of all black and Hispanic patients who enter publicly funded alcohol treatment programs complete treatment, compared to 62% of white patients18
  • The total number of drug overdose deaths in Connecticut rose from 357 to 723 from 2012 to 2015. Heroin and other opioids are encountered in about 90% of these drug overdose deaths.4
  • From 2012-2014 there were 409 substance-related hospitalizations per 10,000 residents in New Haven, compared to 196 per 10,000 in the Greater New Haven Area and 51 per 10,000 residents in the 9 wealthiest towns in Connecticut4

Inspirational Innovation: The OD Help app is a simple, easy-to-use mobile app designed to connect potential opioid overdose victims with a crowd-sourced network of naloxone carriers. The app can interface with a breathing monitor to detect when someone’s breathing rate is dangerously low, a sign of an opioid overdose. It provides instructions on diagnosing an overdose and administering naloxone, and can notify emergency medical services that help is required.

4. Abraham M, Buchanan M. Greater New Haven Community Index. New Haven, CT: DataHaven;2016. 

16. Healthy Connecticut 2020. 1: State Health Assessment. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Department of Public Health;2014. 

17. Kolata G, Cohen S. Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites. The New York Times. Jan 16, 2016, 2016;Health. 

18. Cecere D. Disparities Seen in Addiction Treatment. 2013.