By On September 27th, 2012

Suicide rate soars in U.S. to the #1 cause of death

Suicide has overtaken traffic deaths as the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S. In the past ten years the suicide rate has risen 15% while deaths from motor vehicle accidents declined by 25%. In the same decade deaths from poisonings and falls rose according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Suicide now has an age-adjusted rate of 12 per 100,000 in population and parallels the trends in Canada, the European Union nations and China.

Deaths from poisoning increase 128% from 2000 to 2009 and replaced homicide in third place in 2003. The poisoning deaths were largely due to overdoses of prescription drugs, namely opioid analgesics. While some safeguards have been put into place through manufacturing, prevention and control strategies, the increase in prescription drug abuse continues to pose a huge public health threat.

These two aspects of the public health study, published by Ian Rockett, PhD, MPH and his colleagues in the American Journal of Public Health, 2012: “Leading causes of unintentional and intentional injury mortality: United States, 2000-2009” are a cause for alarm. What is creating the increase in suicides? Are there factors we can isolate? We do know that the number of Americans reporting mental health problems has increased. We also know that the number of people with prescription drug abuse and addiction problems continues to escalate. Are there adequate resources to address the mental health and addiction problems? Are people able to access treatment programs for depression, mood disorders, anxiety and other problems before they escalate into suicidal thinking and behavior? And, with prescription drug abuse, are we fighting the right “war on drugs”?

Treatment is available and we should make every effort to encourage and support people seeking treatment before a life threatening event occurs.

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