Based on recent trends, about 1.6 million people in the U.S. will die from drugs, alcohol and suicides during the next 10 years (2015 to 2025), a new report projects. That represents a 60 percent increase over the roughly 1 million who died from those causes during the previous decade.
However, those projections could be low, based on the recent increase in heroin, fentanyl and carfenil use. The country’s death rate from drugs, alcohol and suicides could double by 2025, to 2 million lives, according to the report, Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy. It was released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT).
The report advocates a comprehensive strategy focusing on prevention, early identification of issues and effective treatment.
Nationally, in 2015, there were 127,500 deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide. The epidemics currently account for 350 deaths per day. According to the report’s projections, this could reach 192,000 per year by 2025 (39.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2015 compared to 55.9 per 100,000 in 2025).
“These trends are a wake-up call that there is a serious well-being crisis in this country,” the report says. “In stark terms, they are signals of serious underlying concerns facing too many Americans — about pain, despair, disconnection and lack of opportunity — and the urgent need to address them.” It calls the actions that have been taken to date “severely inadequate.”
In 2016, 44.7 million American adults experienced a mental health illness, 20.1 million experienced a substance use disorder and 8.2 million experienced both — numbers that probably underestimate the scope of the problem, for reasons related to stigma. due to issues of stigma.
“The current system is not at all equipped to provide the services and supports to address those needs,” the report says, pointing out that only about 10 percent of Americans with substance use disorder receive recommended treatment.
“We’re facing a generational crisis. And it calls for bigger and bolder action,” Benjamin Miller, chief policy officer at the Well Being Trust, said in a statement. “Simply creating new programs to address one piece of the problem is insufficient — we need more robust and systematic change. The good news is: We know a lot about what works and can make a difference.”
The report calls for the creation of a “national resilience strategy,” citing 60 evidence-based policies, practices and programs that could help reduce substance abuse and suicide. They include:
Improve pain management and treatment by helping people heal physically, mentally and emotionally.
Stem the opioid crisis with a full-scale approach – including promoting responsible opioid prescribing practices (such as provider education and best practices for prescription drug monitoring programs); public education about misuse and safe disposal of unused drugs; “hotspot” intervention strategies; anti-trafficking to stop the flow of heroin, fentanyl and other illicit drugs; and expanding the use and availability of rescue drugs, sterile syringes and diversion programs.
Address the impact of the opioid epidemic on children – and the need for a multi-generational response that includes substance use disorder treatment for parents and wrap-around services for children and families, including grandparents and other relatives who help care for children, and expand support for the foster care system.
Lower excessive alcohol use through evidence-based policies, such as by increasing pricing, limiting hours and density of alcohol sales, enforcing underage drinking laws and holding sellers and hosts liable for serving minors.
Prevent suicides by expanding crisis intervention services; anti-bullying and social-emotional learning in schools; and support systems for Veterans; and better integrating mental health into primary care.
Expand and modernize mental health and substance use disorder treatment services – toward a goal of focusing on the “whole health” of individuals by prioritizing innovative integrated delivery models for rural and underserved urban areas and expanding the provider workforce, to provide more access to medication-assisted treatment.
Prioritize prevention, reduce risk factors and promote resilience in children, families and communities by limiting trauma and adverse experiences, and promoting better mental health.
Reboot substance misuse prevention and mental health in schools by scaling up evidence-based life- and coping-skills programs and inclusive school environments and increasing the availability of mental health and other services.
The report was supported by grants from WBT and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), with data analysis and projections by the Berkeley Research Group.The full report is available on TFAH’s website at www.healthyamericans.org.