(Gray News) – The number of deaths in the United States due to alcohol, drugs and suicide topped 150,000 in 2017, more than twice as many as in 1999, a new report says.
The national rate for deaths due to those three factors increased 6 percent between 2016 and 2017. While the increase is lower than the prior two years, it is higher than the 4 percent average annual increase since 1999.
"It is important to see hope in the slowing of rates—but it's not nearly enough,” said Benjamin Miller with WBT. “We should not be satisfied at all. Too many of us are dying from preventable causes."
The number of Americans dying due to substance misuse and suicide is at an all-time high, according to the report.
Drug deaths are driving the increases.
More than 1,000 Americans died from synthetic-opioid overdoses every two weeks during 2017. Two decades ago, less than 1,000 died annually.
The problem has gotten so bad that synthetic opioid deaths rose 45 percent between 2016 and 2017 and have increased 10-fold in the last five years.
Overall, 43 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates of deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide between 2016 and 2017. Only five states—Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming—had lower rates.
The report recommends these policy actions to prevent deaths from alcohol, drugs and sucide:
- Increasing funding and support for programs that reduce risk factors and promote resilience in children, families and communities.
- Exposure to trauma and adverse experiences at young ages increase the potential for substance misuse and suicide.
- Programs that reduce community violence, address poverty and discrimination, create safe, supportive schools and quality learning experiences and promote access to secure housing and employment opportunities all reduce adverse experiences and build resilience.
- Providing more resources to programs that promote harm reduction and access to treatment for individuals with substance use disorders including access to mental health services covered by insurance on par with coverage for physical health care.
- Increased access to programs for communities and population groups at the highest risk for substance misuse and suicide are particularly critical.
- Supporting policies that limit access to the lethal means of suicide by promoting safe storage of medications and firearms and encouraging responsible opioid prescribing practices.