In 2015, a research by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, brought to limelight the fact that the death rates among middle-aged White Non-Hispanics (WNHs) without a college degree was on the rise. After decades of experiencing low mortality, this sudden reversal post the 2008 economic crisis was a cause of worry. Deaton compared this extraordinary turnaround in the mortality rates of WNHs to a “large ship suddenly changing directions.”
A 2017 analysis by the duo gives a peek into what could have caused the unexpected turnaround. While mortality rates are on the rise, all the blame cannot be ascribed to the rising rates of drug overdoses including prescription painkillers, though by far, substance abuse seems to be one of the most prominent causative factors. According to the authors, more and more middle-aged white Americans are dying because society seems to have forgotten about them. Referred to as the “forgotten people” by President Trump, this particular demographic thrived till 2008. However, with the economic recession, and increased focus on globalization, many were left sans their jobs and their dignity.
When one observes the trend in other rich countries, where mortality rates are decreasing with advancement of science and technology, the plight of the WNHs in the U.S. stands out as an anomaly. In America, the mortality rates among Blacks who are less-educated has decreased to the extent that the numbers have actually converged.
Startling revelations of drug overdose
The CDC reported, “since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported.” Worryingly, painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone have contributed more to the overdosing and mortality rates than any other drug.
Data reveals that the incidence of drug overdosing surged for adults aged 55 to 64, from 4.2 per 100,000 in 1999 to 21.8 in 2015, which roughly translates into an average of 10.5 percent overdosing incidents per year. Also, in the year 2015, highest mortality rates from drug overdosing were reported among adults aged 45 to 54, 30 deaths per 100,000. For males, the impact has been more pronounced. The fatalities attributable to drugs increased from 8.2 per 100,000 in 1999 to 20.8 in 2015, almost a five percent rise every year. Between 1999-2006, the rate increased on average by 9 percent each year, by 2 percent every year from 2006 to 2013, and by 12 percent per year between 2013-2015. In case of females, the average increase of only 4 percent was witnessed from 2006 to 2015.
For many forgotten WNHs, drugs offered the easiest way to deal with the pain of isolation. Many are hooked to prescription drugs and often they are careless in the way they store medications, making it all the easier for subsequent generations to fall into the trap. The hike in opioid use is also due to the fact that those addicted can easily fetch cheaper drugs like heroin from the black market and quench their urge.
Waging a war against drugs
Taking note of the severity of the drug pandemic, President Trump said, “Drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States. Drug overdoses have now become the leading cause of accidental deaths in our country.” Driven by the aim to control the current crisis, President Trump has also signed an executive order for establishing a commission that would come up with solutions to counter the opioid epidemic.
While it is definitely painful to be isolated and ignored, drugs are not an optimal choice, as it has a vicious hold on the person. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse problem, it is imperative to seek professional help. The Texas substance Abuse Helpline offers help in finding a variety of evidence-based treatment plans. Call our 24/7 helpline 866-971-2658 or chat online to connect to the finest substance abuse treatment centers in Texas or to get information on the best substance abuse rehab clinic in Texas.