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. They were young or middle-aged and ranged from blue-collar workers to businesspeople. They said painkillers prescribed after accidents or injuries paved the way to their dependence on opioids.
They also were all white.
Of all deaths in 2015 from opioid and heroin overdoses nationwide, about 90percent of the people were white.
Black people accounted for little more than 8 percent, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Among African-Americans critical of the modern drug war launched four decades ago by President Richard Nixon, the fact that the opioid epidemic is primarily striking the majority race helps explain why it is largely being called an epidemic and treated as a public health crisis rather than a war. (USA Today Network)