In the United States (US), individuals of Puerto Rican heritage die of drug overdoses at higher rates than other Hispanic groups or non-Hispanic Whites; yet, little is known about the extent to which drug overdose mortality affects island-born, versus US-born, Puerto Ricans. The distinction between Puerto Rican-born and US-born provides a starting point for culturally tailored services and interventions, as place of birth often informs language preferences and cultural identifications. Therefore, this study analyzed 2013-2019 death certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics for 415,111 US deaths attributed to drug overdose. Drug overdose deaths were compared for island-born Puerto Ricans (N=3516), US-born Puerto Ricans (N=4949), and individuals not of Puerto Rican heritage (N=406,646). Drug overdose mortality rates, including age-specific and directly age-standardized rates, were calculated for each subgroup using population estimates from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Results indicated that age-adjusted drug overdose mortality rates over the period of 2013-2019 were significantly higher for island-born than US-born Puerto Rican men (46.8 versus 34.6, per 100,000), with rates in both groups significantly higher than for men not of Puerto Rican heritage (24.0 per 100,000). For women, in contrast, drug overdose mortality rates were lower for island-born than US-born Puerto Ricans (8.6 versus 11.1, per 100,000). Within stateside Puerto Rican communities, island-born men experience a disproportionate burden of drug overdose mortality, necessitating targeted, culturally appropriate interventions built around the specific norms, circumstances, and lived experiences shared by Puerto Rican migrants who use drugs.
Risk of drug overdose mortality for island-born and US-born Puerto Ricans, 2013-2019