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Study finds variation in death rates from substance use disorders in US counties

Deaths of despair are deaths caused by overdoses, suicides and diseases triggered by alcohol and drug abuse. Unfortunately, these deaths have lately reached alarming levels. A recent study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), revealed that such deaths in the country have increased like never before and have taken the country by storm.

Though the researchers observed an increase in the number of deaths, the swell was not uniform across the country. Cited as the most comprehensive study till date, it tried to highlight the places worst hit by deaths due to drug use disorder, alcohol use disorder (AUD), interpersonal violence and suicide. The death rates were particularly high among white males which contradicted their century-long improved life expectancy.

Deaths due to drug overdose did not decrease even once in any county in 2.5 decades

The study, Trends and Patterns of Geographic Variation in Mortality from Substance Use Disorders and Intentional Injuries Among US Counties, 1980-2014, looked at the spatial and temporal trends in mortality caused by alcoholism, drug misuse, and self-harm among the counties in the United States from 1980 to 2014 to characterize the extent and variation of deaths from these causes.

After examining 2,848,768 deaths in the U.S. (between 1980 and 2014), the study observed that there was a dissimilar mortality rate among counties. The mortality rate for drug use disorder increased by 618.3 percent, while for AUD, it decreased by 8.1 percent. A decrease of 6 percent for self-harm, and 44.9 percent for interpersonal violence was also observed.

The study maintained that although mortality rates triggered by drug use disorders grew in every county, the mortality rates due to AUD, self-harm, and interpersonal violence soared only in some counties, while in others, it declined. This pointed to some significant differences among the U.S. counties with respect to the level and trends in mortality rates due to use of alcohol and drugs, self-harm and interpersonal violence from 1980 to 2014.

The estimates from this study could help in designing treatment solutions, reducing inequalities and targeting prevention, diagnosis and better health outcomes.

Driving cause of deaths unknown

According to Dr. Laura Dwyer-Lindgren, lead author of the study, not knowing the driving causes of the deaths of despair is a “major concern”. She said that when talking about deaths of despair, majority of the discussion centered around the massive increase in the number of deaths from drug use disorders, specifically from opioids.

It is indeed a matter of worry that deaths caused by drug use did not reduce even once throughout the two and a half decades of the research period in any single country in the U.S. In fact, in the “hot spots”, the rates increased fifty-fold.

Dealing with drug and alcohol addiction

In a country lashed by an opioid epidemic, a surge in the death rate due to drug use is a dangerous sign, irrespective of a decline in death rates due to AUD. Opioids have killed millions in the country during the last two decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that opioids killed 42,249 people in 2016 in the U.S., and the opioid overdose deaths were five times higher in 2016 compared to what it was in 1999. The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) states that approximately 15.1 million people, aged 12 years and over, suffered from an AUD in 2016.

If you or a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs, alcohol or any other substance, seek immediate intervention. Being a repository of addiction treatment resources, the 24/7 Recovery Helpline can assist you with drug and alcohol addiction help. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online with our trained experts to locate the finest alcohol or drug rehab centers near you.

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