U.S. deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide hit highest level

March 5, 2019 0
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The number of deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2017 hit the highest level since federal data collection started in 1999, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by two public health nonprofits.

The national rate for deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide rose from 43.9 to 46.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017, a 6 percent increase, the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust reported Tuesday. That was a slower increase than in the previous two years, but it was greater than the 4 percent average annual increase since 1999.

Deaths from suicides rose from 13.9 to 14.5 deaths per 100,000, a 4 percent increase. That was double the average annual pace over the previous decade.

Suicide by suffocation increased 42 percent from 2008 to 2017. Suicide by firearm increased 22 percent in that time.

Psychologist Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer of the Well Being Trust, says broader efforts are needed to address the underlying causes of alcohol and drug use and suicide.

“It’s almost a joke how simple we’re trying to make these issues,” he says. “We’re not changing direction and it’s getting worse.”

The Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust propose approaches including:

  • More funding and support for programs that reduce risk factors and promote resilience in children, families and communities. Trauma and adverse childhood experiences such as incarcerated parents or domestic violence exposure increase the risk of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.
  • Policies that limit people’s access to the means of suicide, such as the safe storage of medications and firearms, and responsible opioid prescribing practices.
  • More resources for programs that reduce the risk of addiction and overdose, especially in areas and among people most affected, and equal access to these services.

While overdose antidotes and treatment for opioid use disorder are needed, he says, “it’s not going to fix” the underlying problems that lead people to end their lives, whether or not it’s intentional, he says.

In most states, deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicides increased in 2017. In five – Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming – those deaths fell.

Highest level from Synthetic Opioids

Deaths from synthetic opioids, including the narcotic pain reliever fentanyl, rose 45 percent. Such deaths have increased tenfold in the last five years.

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