An awful milestone: In 2017, the US saw a record number of deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide. The national rate for such deaths hit an all-time high of 46.6 deaths per 100,000 people, a 6% increase over the year prior and the highest level since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started collecting data in 1999. In fact, the more than 150,000 deaths in 2017 was more than twice the number in 1999, per a press release. The average annual increase since that year has been 4%, USA Today reports. Psychologist Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer of the Well Being Trust, one of the two public health nonprofits that performed the analysis, says it's essential that we work on the underlying problems leading people to either intentionally end their lives or unintentionally do so via drug and alcohol abuse.
The trust specifically suggests that three things are needed: more funding for programs that address risk factors including trauma and adverse experiences in children, families, and communities; policies limiting access to implements of suicide including medication and firearms; and more resources for and access to programs reducing the risk of addiction in the most at-risk communities. Multiple experts say a reduction in social connections could be partially to blame. When people experience a "lack of belonging," Miller says, "they seek meaning in other places" including, sometimes, drugs and alcohol. There was a notable gender difference: The rate of such deaths for males was 68.2 per 100,000, while for females it was 25.7 deaths per 100,000. Medical Xpress notes that the hardest hit groups were 18- to 54-year-olds, men, blacks, whites, and city dwellers. (A big part of the problem? Synthetic opioids.)