Maggie Fox, NBC, February 23, 2018
“Despair deaths” from drugs, alcohol and suicide have reached new peaks in the U.S. and are not just killing whites, but spiking in communities of color, as well, according to a new report released Thursday.
More than 142,000 Americans died from drug or alcohol overdoses and from suicide in 2016, an 11 percent increase over 2015, the report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust finds.
“We had been seeing increases in these trends among these individuals who are dying from drugs, alcohol and suicide,” said Ben Miller, a clinical psychologist at the Well Being Trust.
“But between 2015 and 2016 the racial differences popped out. We saw literally a 39 percent increase in deaths of people of color due to drug overdose,” added Miller, formerly of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
“The substantial rise in deaths in 2016 puts the country past the ‘worst case scenario’ projection trajectory.”
The report found that suicide rates went up 10 percent among blacks from 2015 to 2016 and rose 9 percent among Latinos.
“While drug overdoses were still highest among whites in 2016, there were disproportionally large increases in drug deaths among racial/ethnic minority groups, particularly among black Americans,” the report reads.
“In the previous decade, blacks had relatively low drug overdose rates — averaging 35 percent lower than whites between 2006 and 2015. However, between 2015 and 2016, blacks experienced an alarming increase — of 39 percent — in drug-related deaths.”
The opioid abuse epidemic is so bad that it has hit overall U.S. life expectancy. Life expectancy falls when people start dying at younger ages, and that’s what’s happening in the U.S. with opioid overdoses.
Suicide rates have also soared. Sometimes, the causes are clear: just this week Puerto Rico health authorities reported that at least 103 people have committed suicide in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island territory on Sept. 20.
“Latinos and Asian Americans also historically have had relatively low rates of opioid and synthetic opioid drug overdoses and saw disproportionately large increases between 2015 and 2016,” it reads.
“Latinos saw opioid death rates increase 35 percent and synthetic opioids death rates increase 183 percent between 2015 and 2016. Asians saw opioid deaths rates increase 41 percent and synthetic opioids death rates increase 140 percent between 2015 and 2016.”
If deaths continue to increase at the same rate, more than 2 million people could be dying from drug overdoses, suicide and alcohol abuse over the next decade, the report projects.