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Highest Death Rates from Drugs, Alcohol, and Suicide in U.S. History

Highest Death Rates from Drugs, Alcohol, and Suicide in U.S. History

Two non-profit organizations recently analyzed updated data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that deaths caused by suicide, drug overdose and alcohol rose by 6% in the year 2017, leading to an all-time high in the United States.

Record-Breaking Devastation

Altogether, drugs, alcohol, and suicide killed more than 150,000 people.

Ever since federal data collection started in 1999, the non-profit’s report claims there has never been a death rate this high attributed to these causes. A spike was observed in the national rate for deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide:

  • Start of 2017- 9 deaths per 100,000 people
  • End of 2017- 6 deaths per 100,000 people

On one hand, this is actually a slower increase than the previous two years. However, the difference was a lot over the average annual increase of 4% since 1999.

Opioid Death Rates

Probably the most obvious reasoning behind this increase would be the ongoing opioid crisis. One of the major contributing factors to the rising rates of overdose death in America is dangerous synthetic drugs making their way to the illicit market.

For one thing, deaths due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, rose 45 % in that time. In the past five years, these deaths have actually increased tenfold. Needless to say, lawmakers and public health officials have been scrambling for years to try and solve the overdose issue in the United States.

Suicide Death Rates

Since 1999, deaths from suicide have increased by 33%. The data for 2017 indicates a significant rise in death rates:

  • Start of 2017- 9 deaths per 100,000
  • End of 2017- 5 deaths per 100,000

This is an increase of 4%, which is double the average annual pace over the previous decade. More specifically, from 2008 to 2017:

  • Suicide by suffocation increased by 42%
  • Suicide by firearm increased by 22%

The highest suicide rates are typically in rural areas, including:

  • West Virginia
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Alaska
  • New Hampshire

One thing to point out is that some researchers believe that suicides are actually under-reported. This may be in part due to the stigma surrounding mental disorders, but also largely due to mislabeling the cause of death. For instance, some cases may be recorded as overdoses or accidents that are actually intentional.

Alcohol Death Rates

As far as alcohol-related death rates are concerned, some suspect that higher proof alcohols becoming increasingly popular in the last decade has also contributed to health issues and deaths. In fact, between 2002 and 2013:

  • The amount of how much alcohol Americans consumed only increased by 6%.
  • Estimates to determine how much alcohol is typically drunk have remained the same.
  • Health problems as a result of drinking spiked in the same time frame.

Meanwhile, some drinks have a dramatically higher alcohol-by-volume (ABV) percentage. Between 2002 and 2016, the average alcohol by volume grew across the board:

  • Beer ABV increased an average of 2%
  • Wine ABV increased an average of 6%
  • Liquor ABV increased an average of 4%

According to another analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, from 2007 to 2017:

  • The number of deaths attributable to alcohol increased by 35%
  • Deaths among women rose 85%
  • Deaths among men rose 29%

One positive piece of data is that the study suggests teen drinking deaths actually decreased by 16%. Still, alcohol has contributed plenty to the rising death rates.

Addressing Underlying Issues

With the highest death rates due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide in recorded history, it goes without saying that a lot more needs to be done to promote treatment resources and prevention. With the failed War on Drugs has taught us what is not working, many have turned to strategies that focus on the preservation of life more than punishing those struggling with addiction. Harm reduction efforts like naloxone expansion and needle exchange programs have made some real progress. Some have even begun exploring the possibility of establishing safe injection sites.

Additionally, there needs to be more put into comprehensive treatment. Most experts agree there is a need for broader efforts to address the underlying causes of alcohol and drug use, and suicide. Having access to effective mental health care and addiction treatment resources can significantly impact the well-being of those most at risk. Long-term recovery offers those most likely to die as a result of drug use or suicide a way out.

This would also include more funding and support for programs that reduce risk factors. A major aspect of prevention when it comes to substance abuse and mental health has to do with trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Research has suggested there is a notable connection between the risk of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide and childhood trauma.

There were five states where death rates due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide decreased:

  • Massachusetts
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

Hopefully, as new initiatives push forward to save lives and offer prevention, we will see more states with decreasing death rates. Overall, we can hope that better opportunities for treatment and support will lead to an improvement in public health. Meanwhile, raising awareness and education are crucial to turning this trend around.

With their highest death rates in history, substance abuse and suicide are some of the most important public health issues facing Americans today. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Sterilize for Cash: This Woman Pays Drug Addicts To Not Have Kids

Sterilize for Cash: This Woman Pays Drug Addicts To Not Have Kids

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Barbara Harris believes drug addicts should not have children, and she’s using cash incentives to ensure they never do.

For the last 20 years, Harris has driven across the country in a branded RV advertising her non-profit to drug addicts and alcoholics.

Her mission? To reduce the number of children born addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Her nonprofit, Project Prevention, pays substance abusers up to $300 to get sterilized or put on long term birth control like an implant or IUD. Those who get sterilized receive a lump sum and those who opt for less permanent birth control options get their payments in smaller installments.

To date, Harris’s organization has paid more than 7,000 people, mostly women, to give up their fertility. Project Prevention only pays the addicts and leaves the sterilizations and birth control procedures to doctors.

Harris believes the cash incentive is stopping a major societal problem in its tracks:

“We’re preventing women who are strung out on drugs and alcohol from conceiving a child,” Harris says. “Nobody has a right to force-feed any child drugs and then deliver a child that may die or may have lifelong illnesses.”

Drug and alcohol use during pregnancy can result in a host of medical complications. The use of heroin and narcotic painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, or morphine can cause bleeding within the brain (intracranial hemorrhage) and even infant death.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is defined as: “a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother’s womb,” according to Medscape.

Here are Some Tragic Truths:

  • Every 25 minutes, a baby is born suffering from extreme withdrawal symptoms from the heroin, painkillers, or cocaine their mothers continued using throughout pregnancy.
  • The numbers of babies born addicted to drugs have quadrupled between 2004 and 2013.
  • In 2013, 27 babies out of every 1000 were born dependent on narcotics.
  • These babies suffer from withdrawal symptoms like irritability, convulsions, sleep abnormalities and joint stiffness.
  • Often, these babies must be sent to intensive care units where doctors help wean them off the drugs.
  • It is taking longer to wean addicted babies off drugs such as heroin and mephedrone. On average, babies now spend their first 19 days – up from 13 days – in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
  • In 2015, the average overall cost of a newborn suffering from NAS was found to be between $159,000 and $238,000, and these numbers are expected to continue to rise.

In terms of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome is another tragic outcome.  Fetal alcohol syndrome can seriously harm the development of a baby during pregnancy, both mentally and physically. These effects can last throughout a child’s life.

FAS harms a baby in many ways including:

  • Birth defects
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Low birth weight
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Behavioral problems
  • Growth deficiency
  • Death

Some say Harris’s Organization Raises SERIOUS Ethical Questions

Harris’s mission to reduce these pregnancies seems straightforward. However, many feel her organization raises serious ethical questions.   One question posed is whether she is taking advantage of addicts during their most vulnerable time.

A major critic of Project Prevention is Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. She’s been a critic of Harris’s work for over 20 years.

“Barbara Harris greatest impact is in perpetuating really destructive and cruel myths about pregnant women and their children,” Paltrow says.

Paltrow believes Harris’s organization does more harm than good and does not address the underlying problems of poverty, lack of access to healthcare and stress created by racism have on these women. Instead, she feels Harris’s organization does nothing more but promote stigma.

“When you talk to the medical researchers, the great news is that none of the criminalized drugs cause unique permanent terrible damage,” Paltrow says. “Three percent of all women give birth to babies that have what are called serious birth defects. None of that has anything to do with the criminalized drugs.”

Another strong critic featured is Mary Barr, a former addict who believes what Harris is doing is wrong. Barr has two children who were born healthy despite her drug use.

 “I have two children who are incredibly healthy, were born healthy, they’re 26 and 25, and they’re very amazingly successful,” she says.

When asked if she would have taken up on Harris’s offer at the height of her addiction, she says she would have.

“I would have taken it because $300 all at once, that means for me, three nights of sleeping indoors,” she says referring to her predicament back then.

Is Project Prevention Denying Addicts a Second Chance? 

Despite the controversy, Harris believes what her organization is doing is the right thing for the children. She does not believe she is promoting sterilization. Instead, she says what she offers is a choice.

“We don’t promote sterilization, that’s their choice. They got strung out; they decided they wanted $300 to sterilize themselves, and if it’s a decision they regret, it was a decision they made just like prostituting and ending up with AIDS,” she says.

One of the reasons Harris is so passionate about this is because she adopted and raised four children from the same mother who used drugs throughout her pregnancy. She wants to prevent other children from being born in the same situation.

“I watched how my children suffered and had to withdraw from drugs when they were born so no, I wasn’t thinking about  ‘These poor women,’ I was thinking ‘My poor children,’” she says.

 “I always say to them if you believe that strongly that these women should keep conceiving children then you should step up and adopt the next one born, but most of the people who have a problem with what we’re doing would never consider adopting one of these children, so if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” she concludes

Overall, like most harm reduction programs, this solution is controversial. There are many addicts who have recovered and gone on to have and raise children. Sadly, there are children born every day addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the consequences are real. Harris’s organization receives over $500,000 in funding every year. Clearly, there are many on her side when it comes to providing this option.


What are your thoughts? Does a program like this promote stigma or offer a solution? Either way, please do not continue to let your addiction take over your life. You deserve the opportunity to live a healthy and satisfying life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, please call now 1-800-777-9588. 

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Can I Make My Child Go to Rehab?

Can I Make My Child Go to Rehab?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

For parents, one of the most difficult decisions can come when your child is struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse. You may end up looking desperately for answers that are not as cut and dry as we would hope. Part of you may want to force your child to get treatment, even if they are in denial of their substance use or just refuse to accept help. So you ask- can I make my child go to rehab?

Can I Make My Child Go to Rehab: Trouble with Teens

Because underage children cannot begin to understand just how much drugs or alcohol can impact their futures, and their health, they are the people most likely to resist getting help. Teenagers are also less likely to have control over their impulsive behaviors because their brains are still not fully developed.

Of course if your child is a minor, it is possible to make them go. Legally, anyone under the age of 18 years old can actually be placed into a residential drug treatment facility without their consent. In the United States, if the child’s parent or legal guardian has custody and a right to protect the child, then they are able to take some extreme action if needed.

However, while it is legal, the bigger question may become should you make your child go to rehab? Is this the most effective way?

Can I Make My Child Go to Rehab: Adult Children

But what if your child is not a minor?

Well, it is still possible to force one of your adult children into treatment in some states. In a few states across America there are laws that allow family members to legitimately force addicts into rehab. In some states where these laws don’t already exist there are movements to push for such legislation. However, making an adult child go to treatment is not just picking a place, grabbing the person and dropping them off. With trying to make an adult get treatment, there is more of a process.

For example, in the state of Florida there is a law called the Marchman Act. This is one of the more progressive laws in America regarding drug and alcohol rehab.

The Marchman Act requires that in order to petition for an addict to be involuntarily admitted to treatment, there has to be present either:

  • A spouse
  • A relative
  • In the absence of family members, three people who have direct contact and understanding of the addict’s condition

Whoever the petitioners, the individuals must be able to provide proof that the individual has lost control and that are likely to harm themselves or someone else. The state you live in may have different stipulations for involuntary commitment to a drug or alcohol treatment facility.

Can I Make My Child Go to Rehab: Intervention

One way people will decide to try and make their child go to drug treatment is by staging an intervention. Sometimes this is done with a professional intervention specialist, and other times it is something organized by the family and loved ones of the individual. In this context, some parents or loved ones may try to blackmail or bribe the individual into getting help.

The term ‘tough love’ is thrown around a lot in situations like this, but while it is important to set boundaries with loved ones, having a more compassionate and supportive approach is often much more effective when trying to actually help a loved one or child to end their suffering.

Communication is key. Having an understanding of what a loved one is going through and what the risks are is crucial to having a constructive and helpful conversation about addiction and getting treatment.

Can I Make My Child Go to Rehab: Should I Try?

After looking at your options, the more pressing question becomes- should I make my child go to rehab?

Of course there is no one-size-fits-all answer for this, but there are those who would suggest involuntary treatment is not as effective as voluntary treatment. Many would argue that recovery requires a real effort, and that someone who does not want to get clean will not succeed.

Others will refute this, and say there is no reason to believe that just because someone does not want to go to treatment doesn’t mean it won’t work. Courts will still sometimes mandate drug treatment in some form, and many people have attended rehab or went to recovery support groups and gotten clean and sober without an initial desire to do so. Also, some would rather their child be institutionalized in some way to keep them off the streets, regardless of what they want.

It is completely understandable for a parent to try to do everything in their power to get your child the help they desperately need. At the same time, it may be important to show compassion, support and have a direct and open conversation before trying to force someone into treatment. The reality is, if they have a bad experience they may never try again. Make sure to be honest and comprehensive, while also setting firm boundaries.

Addiction is a family disease. To learn more about setting healthy boundaries, download our FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.

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Forcing your child to go to rehab may not be the best way to get them help, but it can save them, if only briefly. Ultimately, finding a safe and effective treatment program creates the opportunity for lasting change and growth. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We all need a little help sometimes, and Palm Healthcare Company wants to help you.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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