Diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., has been surpassed by drug overdoses and suicides.
According to a report published on Monday in the journal Injury Prevention, since 2015, the number of deaths from drug overdoses and suicides has overtaken deaths from diabetes.
“And in 2016, this gap widened further, with deaths by suicide/drug overdose just over 29 per 100,000 of the population compared with just under 25/100,000 for diabetes,” writes EurekAlert. “What’s more, the rate of self-injury soared by 80 percent between 2000 and 2016, with drug overdose deaths alone tripling from 6.2 to 19.7/100,000 of the population during this period. And suicides were 34 percent higher in 2016 than they were in 2000, having risen steadily since 2005.”
The report also points out that drug-related deaths are often misclassified as overdoses because a suicide note isn’t found.
“The rising suicide and opioid mortality rates aren’t really independent,” said Ian Rockett, the senior author of a study published in the Injury Prevention journal. “If you put the focus on the behavior, most of these deaths are from self-harm. We don’t want to blame the victim, but descriptively they belong together.”
71,568 Americans have died due to overdoses in 2017, according to a recent estimate from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.)
The CDC is estimating that diabetes took more lives (79,500) in 2017. However, 150,000 Americans die each year from accidents, including car crashes, injuries, or accidental overdoses, meaning that the deaths from overdoses are actually much higher than estimated.
Opioids, in particular, remain the main culprit for deaths via overdoses. Fentanyl overdoses accounted for almost half of 2016’s overdose deaths, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).
“Sadly, I don’t think we are doing a good job in terms of getting our arms around it,” said Rockett. “It’s a growing problem.”
Rockett points out that the opioid epidemic directly correlates with suicidal deaths.
“We have a major mental health crisis underway in America, and it’s very much underestimated when we think of suicides and drug intoxication deaths as different phenomenon,” said Rockett. “We need to get mental health on the front burner. It’s an even bigger problem than people realize.”
Author’s note: It’s sad that we see more coverage on overdoses and suicides after overdose incidents with celebrities like the recent one with Demi Lovato. At least, it brings awareness? But the opioid epidemic is out of control and needs to be addressed. Barack Obama lacked action to handle this crisis and because of that, it will be a long hard road to combat this problem.
Editor’s note: Often we find that while celebrity overdoses create and outpouring of sympathy, they also create drug using role models that influence fans. Behaviors that used to be horrifying, are now more in the mainstream. Obama’s leadership (as a self described drug user) served to make this problem worse. Trump has promised to fix it, but its a tough problem.