New Data Show Drug Overdose and Suicide Deaths Climbed at Alarming Rates in 2017
Nationally, deaths due to drug overdose and suicide increased last year according to data released today by the National Centers for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and analyzed by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT).
In 2017, 70,237 Americans died from drug overdoses, a rate of 21.7 deaths per 100,000 people. In comparison, 63,600 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, a rate of 19.8 deaths per 100,000. Nationally, the 2017 rate was 9.6 percent higher than the 2016 rate.
In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide. Suicide accounted for 14.0 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, up from 13.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2016— a 3.7 percent increase. Between 1999 and 2017, the age-adjusted suicide rate increased 33 percent from 10.5 per 100,000 deaths to 14.0 per 100,000.
According to TFAH’s and WBT’s analysis:
- West Virginia continued to have the highest rate of drug overdose deaths (57.8 deaths per 100,000) in 2017. Ohio was second (46.3 per 100,000) and Pennsylvania was third (44.3 deaths per 100,000).
- Drug overdose death rates were higher in 2017 compared to 2016 in 39 states and the District of Columbia. States with the largest change in drug overdose death rates between 2016 and 2017 were: New Jersey (29 percent increase), Nebraska (27 percent increase), Indiana (23 percent increase), and North Carolina (22 percent increase).
- Drug overdose death rates were lower in 8 states, most were less densely populated states: Wyoming (31 percent decrease), North Dakota (13 percent decrease), Oklahoma (7 percent decrease), New Hampshire (5 percent decrease), Idaho (5 percent decrease), Massachusetts (4 percent decrease), New Mexico (2 percent decrease) and Missouri (1 percent decrease).
- The increase in opioid overdose rates was driven by a 45 percent increase in the death rate from synthetic opioids including fentanyl. Heroin, natural and semisynthetic opioids, and methadone overdose death rates were flat or declined nationally.
“Just one person dying from a preventable cause is one death too many,” said Benjamin F. Miller, Psy.D., Chief Strategy Officer, WBT. “Evidence provides clear ways to more proactively address issues of substance misuse and help build resiliency in our communities, but, our country has not yet prioritized investing in prevention and intervention. If we continue to fail to put dollars and common sense into a systematic approach to prevention and treatment, we’ll never ensure optimal health and well-being for our nation.”
In addition, the analysis found that, while the number of drug overdose deaths continues to be historically and tragically high nationwide, the epidemic continues to have a differential impact in some population groups, comparing 2016 to 2017:
- Drug overdose rates for men: increased by 11.1 percent
- Drug overdose rates for women: increased by 7.5 percent
- Drug overdose rates for 15- to 24-year-olds increased by 1.6 percent
- Drug overdose rates for 25- to 34-year-olds increased by 11.0 percent
- Drug overdose rates for 35- to 44-year-olds increased by 11.4 percent
- Drug overdose rates for 45- to 54-year-olds increased by 9.3 percent
- Drug overdose rates for 55- to 64-year-olds increased by 9.4 percent
“Another year of increasing numbers of drug overdose deaths is a national emergency, that can’t be overstated,” said John Auerbach, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Trust for America’s Health. “Government and the healthcare sector at all levels must adopt a comprehensive approach and strengthen efforts to prevent substance misuse and suicide attempts by addressing their underlying causes. We face a crisis that requires a multi-faceted response and the skills of the public health sector.”
Last year, TFAH and WBT released Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicides Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy, which included recommendations for evidence-based policies and programs that federal, state, and local officials should put in place or extend to address drug misuse and save lives. These recommendations include:
- Identifying and addressing “upstream” risks such as trauma and extreme stress.
- Building resiliency in children and adults with programs in schools, workplaces and community settings.
- Promoting responsible opioid prescribing practices.
- Patient education about the risks of addiction when taking opioids.
- Improved non-drug pain management interventions.
- Expanded availability and use of rescue drugs.
- Enhancing and enforcing mental health parity laws.
- Drug disposal programs.
- Support for “whole person” healthcare including mental and behavioral health, substance misuse screening within primary care settings and ensuring availability of evidence-based substance abuse treatment programs.