Deaths From Alcohol, Drugs, and Suicide Hit Record High in 2016

Deaths From Alcohol, Drugs, and Suicide Hit Record High in 2016

The number of deaths from suicide and alcohol- and drug-induced fatalities in the United States reached a record 141,963 — or one every four minutes — in 2016, a new analysis by the Trust for America's Health and Well Being Trust finds.

The issue brief, Pain in the Nation Update: Deaths From Alcohol, Drugs and Suicide Reach the Highest Level Ever Recorded (14 pages, PDF), found that alcohol, drug, and suicide deaths rose 11 percent on a year-over-year basis — a record increase for the second consecutive year. The analysis also found disproportionately large increases in drug deaths among people of color; while white Americans still had the highest rate of drug deaths (22.9 per 100,000), up 19 percent from 2015, the rate among African Americans (17.6 per 100,000) and Latino/as (9.6 per 100,000) jumped 39 percent and 24 percent, respectively. In addition, suicide rates rose 10 percent for African Americans and 9 percent for Latino/as, compared with 5 percent and 1 percent for Asian Americans and white Americans.

According to the brief, rates of drug deaths also increased significantly among those between the ages of 15 and 34 (29 percent), those living in the Northeast (32 percent), and those in metro areas (22 percent). The number of deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil doubled from 9,600 to 19,400, driving a 21 percent increase in the overall rate of drug deaths — compared with 5 percent for alcohol deaths and 1 percent for suicides. For the first time, the number of deaths from synthetic opioids surpassed those from heroin and common prescription opioids such as codeine and morphine.

The brief also found that the Northeast and Midwest had the largest increase in alcohol, drug, and suicide deaths, with Washington, D.C. (58 percent) and six states — Maryland (40 percent), Delaware (25 percent); Pennsylvania (25 percent), New Jersey (22 percent), Illinois (21 percent), and Ohio (21 percent) — seeing increases of more than 20 percent.

"For each of these deaths, many more Americans are affected, either directly or through family and friends," said John Auerbach, president and chief executive of TFAH.  "These new data demand policy makers rethink what communities are affected and what multi-sector strategies are needed to address these three epidemics. We must ensure that funding, programmatic efforts and policies are directed to all the people and communities in need. The solution is a comprehensive National Resilience Strategy to combat the deaths from despair."