Opioid ODs Outpacing Other 'Deaths of Despair'

From Drugs.com - March 13, 2018

Opioid ODs Outpacing Other 'Deaths of Despair'

TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 -- Though fewer Americans are dying from alcohol abuse, suicide and murder, opioid overdose deaths have risen dramatically in recent decades, a new report finds.

And some regions of the United States are bearing the brunt of these "deaths of despair," the researchers discovered.

"Unless more effective policies are developed and programs implemented, drug use disorders will continue to have devastating and tragic consequences," said study author Laura Dwyer-Lindgren. She's an assistant professor of global health at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The national toll of drug overdose deaths is indisputable in the report: They increased 238 percent between 1980 and 2000, and 112 percent between 2000 and 2014. America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives.

These deaths increased in every U.S. county, but some counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and eastern Oklahoma saw increases exceeding 5,000 percent, Dwyer-Lindgren said.

And while this study stops at 2014, newer numbers suggest that these trends continue, one public health expert said.

"We have released data that cover 2015 and 2016, and see that these trends have intensified," said John Auerbach, president and chief executive officer of the Trust for America's Health.

"The most recent data from 2017 suggests that these trends are continuing to increase. These problems are getting worse, not better," he added.

"Deaths from alcohol, drugs, suicide and violence are what might be called 'despair-related' deaths," Auerbach said.

People who feel hopeless are the most likely to die from one of these, he said. "Experiences in their lives have led them to numb the pain that they are feeling," Auerbach explained.

How to stem the tide? Doctors should screen their patients for signs of addiction or suicidal thoughts and refer them for treatment, Auerbach said.

"Another thing that needs to be done is to work with children and adolescents before they become addicted or suicidal, to address some of these underlying issues," Auerbach suggested.

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