Twisted Sisters: Addiction and Suicide

Mortality from drug and alcohol abuse, addiction and suicide could account for 1.6 million fatalities over the coming decade (2016 to 2025) according to a new report, Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy, recently released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT). These data represent a 60% increase from this past decade when there were 1 million deaths attributable to substance misuse, addiction and suicide (2005 and 2015).

Specifically, mortality would increase from 39.7 per 100,000 as of 2015 to nearly 55.9 per 100,000 by 2025 (in the baseline scenario). Under an extreme worst case scenario, which would be consistent with current reported trends in 2016, the death rate could reach 2 million by 2025—effectively doubling the prevalence rate of the past decade.

Why Does This Matter?

The current national mortality trends from substance use disorder are shocking. To think these data could double in the next decade is beyond shocking.

  • Drug overdose deaths tripled between 2000 and 2015 (with a total of 52,400 deaths in 2015) with rural community opioid-related death rates increasing seven-fold
  • Provisional data shows drug overdoses could exceed 64,000 in 2016, with fentanyl-related deaths alone accounting for 21,000 of these deaths (and fentanyl-related deaths doubling between 2015 and 2016)
  • Alcohol-induced deaths increased 37% between 2000 and 2015, reaching a 35-year high at 33,200 deaths in 2015. This excludes alcohol-attributable deaths related to injury and violence
  • Suicide deaths increased by 28% between 2000 and 2015 to more than 44,000 deaths (as of 2015). Rural suicide rates are 40% higher than in metro areas
  • As of 2015, more than 43 million Americans experienced a mental health issue, more than 20 million had a substance use disorder and more than 8 million experienced both – and these numbers are likely to be underestimates due to stigma and lack of available treatment

In spite of these data, only around one in 10 people with substance use disorders receive recommended treatment.

Waiting for people to become addicted or suicidal and then providing treatment is like diagnosing stage 3 or 4 cancer. The outcomes are largely determined and not good, plus treatment is expensive and the sheer volume cited in this analysis is unsustainable.

Today, addiction starts during the preteen or early teen years. A 12-14 year old has few, if any, coping skills or resilience. Moreover, genetic research has shown that as much as 50% of addiction has a genetic basis. Likewise, suicidality is associated with SUDs and of course depression and trauma.

A much greater commitment of time, expertise and resources aimed at both prevention and viable treatment of appropriate intensity and duration is needed. Policy makers, scientists, and mental health professionals must find a way to stem the tide of this rising mortality. Anything less is a waste of time and money.

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Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy, Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT). November 21, 2017