By On March 14th, 2019

U.S. saw all-time high deaths from suicide, drugs, and alcohol in 2017

Deaths from substance abuse and suicide reached an all-time high in America in 2017 according to a troubling new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) and the Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust.

Throughout the year, more than 150,000 Americans died from drug use, alcohol, or suicide – more than double the number in 1999.

Compared to the previous year, the national death rate from drugs, alcohol, and suicide rose 6% from almost 44 to 46.6 deaths per 100,000.

While the yearly increase was actually less than in the two previous years, it was still higher than the 4% average annual increase since 1999.

“It is important to see hope in the slowing of rates — but it’s not nearly enough,” Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer of Well Being Trust, said in a news release from the two groups. “We should not be satisfied at all. Too many of us are dying from preventable causes.”

The study indicates the ongoing opioid epidemic is driving the surge of deaths. Synthetic opioid-related deaths increase 10-fold over the last 5 years, jumping 45% between 2016 and 2017 alone.

According to the CDC, the total number of deaths related to synthetic opioid use last year was greater than the total deaths from drug use in 1999.

To put into context just how serious the opioid epidemic has become, the report notes that fewer than 1,000 individuals died from fentanyl and synthetic opioids in 1999. In 2017, more than 1,000 people were dying every two weeks from synthetic opioids.

The groups most at risk from deaths from synthetic opioids were 18- to 54-year-old men, African-Americans, Caucasians, and people living within cities. The Northeastern and Midwestern states were also particularly vulnerable to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

The report’s’ findings on suicide were also troubling, with a 4% rise in suicide deaths occurring between 2016 to 2017 – increasing from 13.9 per 100,000 to 14.5. This is the largest yearly increase since the CDC began collecting suicide death data in 1999.

Since 2008, suicide rates have risen an average of 2% every year, or 22% overall.

White males and people living in rural areas were most at risk of committing suicide according to the report.

“As a nation, we need to better understand and to systematically address the factors that drive these devastating deaths of despair,” said CEO of Trust for America’s Health, John Auerbach in the press release.

While 43 states and Washington D.C. all saw their overall death rates from drugs, alcohol, and suicide increase between 2016 to 2017, five states actually saw declines – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah, Wyoming, and Oklahoma.

Both Miller and Auerbach say the current strategy of responding to specific issues as they appear isn’t doing the job.

“Each time we make progress – like with prescription opioids – new problems – like synthetic opioids – appear,” said Miller.

“We need a comprehensive approach with attention to the upstream root causes – like childhood trauma, poverty, and discrimination – and the downstream lifesaving efforts – like overdose reversal and access to treatment – and everything in between,” concluded Auerbach.

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