Why White Males are Dying From Opiate Addiction

White paper men and syringe

The demographics of drug addiction and substance abuse in the United States is shifting. The mortality rate of white males is skyrocketing in the U.S. as pertains to drug use, while the mortality rate for minorities is either staying the same or dropping. Why is this?

Death rates for middle-class, “under-educated” white Americans have now surpassed blacks overall. These are the white Americans who produce twenty-thousand to eighty-thousand dollars a year and have a high school education or less. Their death rates are about twenty to thirty percent higher than they are for blacks. This information came from a Princeton economics study on the matter.

In a direct quote from the Princeton study authors:

Case and Deaton (the study authors) find that while midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s. This is due to both rises in the number of ’deaths of despair’—death by drugs, alcohol, and suicide—and to a slowdown in progress against mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two largest killers in middle age.

White Males Have it Worst

The above is pretty discouraging, and it certainly seems like white men, in particular, are most harmed by this. White men are experiencing overdoses at a rate four-hundred percent what it was twenty years ago. Rather than a few thousand men dying from drug use in the 1990s, now tens of thousands of white men die from drug overdoses each year.

Interestingly enough, President Trump performed exceptionally well in the election in counties that had a high prevalence of drug use and alcoholism. He also performed best in areas that had a strong working class and economic stress. Whether he will live up to his promises to these voters or not remains to be seen, but he was strongly supported by the very demographics that are hurt most by opiates.

NPR did a study of their own on white male overdose rates, referencing the Anne Case and Angus Deaton study cited above. In the NPR study, groundbreaking research was done to correlate the Case and Deaton study with other information from authority voices on the subject.

The NPR study references that, while white male deaths have decreased since 1990 in Germany, France, and Sweden, they have skyrocketed in the United States. Death rates for these demographics have stayed about the same in Canada, the U.K., and Australia, but the United States is the only country of its class that has experienced rampant death tolls amongst white male middle-class, middle-aged residents.

It all comes back to drug use.


White American Middle-Class Males and Drug Use

White middle-class American men have it worst when it comes to increasing overdose statistics. These are the individuals that have it the hardest by far, and these individuals can’t seem to catch a break from the rising epidemic of opiate overdose statistics.

Opiates, more often than not, are the cause of white overdose rates, claiming the lives of tens of thousands of whites every year. The single greatest change in the status of drug use in the 21st century as opposed to drug use in previous decades is that this is no longer a low-class or poverty-class problem. Opiate abuse is now something that has spread outwards from American inner cities and into white suburbia. In addressing drug and alcohol addiction in the 21st century, we need to understand that this is a problem that can, and does, touch down in all income classes, all demographics, all geographics, and all ethnicities.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.