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Original Articles

Drug Overdose Deaths Among US Hispanics: Trends (2000–2017) and Recent Patterns

Pages 2138-2147
Published online: 25 Jul 2020



The US drug overdose crisis has devastated communities across the nation, yet relatively little is known about recent impacts in diverse Hispanic populations. Purpose: This study explored demographic and drug patterns in overdose deaths among US Hispanics in 2017, as well as longer-term time trends in drug overdose mortality among Hispanics from 2000 to 2017. Methods: Death certificate data were obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics. Bivariate analyses examined demographic and drug characteristics of the 5,988 drug overdose deaths among Hispanics in 2017. Data from 2017 were also utilized to compute age-adjusted drug overdose mortality rates for Hispanics overall, for specific Hispanic heritage groups, and for Non-Hispanic Whites (as a frame of reference). Joinpoint Regression was used to characterize trends in drug overdose mortality among US Hispanic men and women between 2000 and 2017. Results: The majority of Hispanic drug overdose decedents in 2017 were male (76.1%) and US-born (70.0%). Synthetic opioids were involved in the highest proportion of deaths in all Hispanic heritages, except the Mexican heritage group, in which psychostimulants were most commonly involved. The 2017 age-adjusted drug overdose mortality rate for Hispanics overall was lower than the rate among Non-Hispanic Whites, yet the rate among Puerto Rican-heritage Hispanics (29.0, 95% CI 27.6–30.4) was 6% higher than among Non-Hispanic Whites (27.4, 95% CI 27.2–27.6). Conclusions: Results highlight substantial variation in Hispanic drug overdose mortality rates, indicating that national rates for Hispanics obscure higher-risk subgroups. The diverse demographic profiles of Hispanic drug overdose decedents underscore the need for culturally tailored interventions.


The author would like to thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics for access to the data. The author also wishes to thank Dr. David T. Takeuchi for assistance with the application for data access. Finally, the author thanks the anonymous peer reviewers whose comments and suggestions were instrumental in strengthening the manuscript.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest to report.

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