United States 'deaths of despair' surge to record high, report reveals

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Deaths from suicide, alcohol and drugs skyrocket — but not in NY

US death rates from suicides, drug overdoses, and alcohol have reached an all-time high, with some states having been hit far harder than others, according to a report released last Wednesday by the Commonwealth Fund. It also succeeds in keeping infant mortality rates low - although there is significant racial disparity - and avoiding hospitalizations among adults. Still, more than 3,000 people died of drug-related issues in 2018, twice the number recorded two years earlier, in part because of the growing use of a deadly mixing agent, fentanyl, that is far more powerful than heroin alone.

The report said USA suicide rates are up nearly 30 percent since 2005 while alcohol-related deaths have steadily grown by about 4 percent for much of this decade.

NY ranked 14th in the study, which examined data from the 50 states and DC on death rates, obesity, access to health care, medical costs, dental health, smoking rates and more.

That's awful news for West Virginia, but signals a somewhat heartening nationwide shift.

However, there was still a 10 percent increase in these deaths between 2016 and 2017, so there is still much room for progress.

Alcohol and suicide continue to consistently fuel rising death tolls in the U.S. as well. Twelve varying states rated poorly with both suicides and alcohol-related deaths, while 13 states saw high rates of drug-related deaths.

According to the report, 30 people per 100,000 in New Jersey lost their lives to drugs in 2017.

The Commonwealth Fund states in their report that these dramatic rises in death rates are "another marker of complex socioeconomic and behavioral health problems across the nation".

The rise of alcohol related deaths has accelerated, too.

From 2013 to 2017, the rate of increase double to a four percent annual climb.

"When we look at what's going on in mid-Atlantic states-West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio-those are the states that have the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country", a senior scientist for the Commonwealth Fund, David Radley, stated. But the study showed states varied among the three death types. They recommend increasing access to a drug that can save lives during an overdose, naloxone, and better legislating the prescription of opioids. As health care becomes more expensive, the report states, this presents an increasing problem for people who have trouble accessing health care due to their insurance.

Most states that adopted the expansion have low median incomes.

Still, each state has its own particular needs, says Dr Collins.

'IF you lump them together, you can say they all require somewhat different tools.

Regardless, she adds that all of these states need a "federal partner" backing and uniting their efforts to turn the tide of deaths of despair.

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