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You Might Be Surprised Where The Leading Areas Of Drug Overdose Are In The U.S.

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You Might Be Surprised Where The Leading Areas Of Drug Overdose Are In The U.S.


Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

The number of premature deaths due to drug overdoses has skyrocketed in large suburban counties in the United States, which went from having the lowest to the highest rate over the past 10 years, according to a new study.

Released Wednesday morning by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health, the report draws the conclusion that premature deaths—caused by far more factors than just drug overdoses—are on the rise across urban and rural communities, as well as racial and ethnic groups.

The researchers note that “Premature death has consistently been highest in rural counties and among American Indian/Alaskan Native and black populations.” Young people aged 15 to 44 have seen the greatest spike in premature deaths in recent years.

“Drug overdose was by far the single leading cause of premature death by injury in 2015 and contributed to the accelerated rise in premature death from 2014 to 2015,” the study determines. “Large suburban metro counties went from having the lowest to the highest rate of premature death due to drug overdose within the past decade.”

Titled the “2017 Health County Rankings,” the report concludes that, in addition to large suburbs, “smaller metro and rural counties” also suffer the highest rates of lethal drug overdoses.

The annual study states that a key driver of premature death is “youth disconnection,” defined as young people “not working or in school” who are “disconnected from opportunities to live long and healthy lives.” This category correlates with profound disparities across race and class lines.

“Rates of youth disconnection are higher in rural counties (21.6 percent) than in urban counties (13.7 percent), particularly rural counties in the South and West,” the study notes. “Places with high levels of youth disconnection have higher rates of unemployment, child poverty, children in single-parent households, teen births, and lower educational attainment.”

“The main storyline here is that it’s happening across the country,” Jan O’Neill, an associate researcher and community coach at County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, told AlterNet. “It’s an equal opportunity crisis, but the accelerated rate is in suburban and smaller metro counties.”

“The contributors have to do with different community types,” she continued. “Drug overdoses are highest among certain demographics: white and American Indian/Alaskan Native populations. This is also rising because of an increase among 15- to 44-year-olds. For this younger generation, we’re also seeing an increase in car crashes, suicides and homicides, not just drugs. We can treat this as a public health crisis and not something that we need to punish.”

The findings are consistent with a rise in what some researchers refer to as “deaths of despair.” A separate paper recently released by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton determined that premature deaths due to drug overdoses, suicides, alcoholism and other factors are on the rise for middle-aged white people with a high-school education or less. By contrast, mortality rates are falling for white Americans with college degrees. The scholars identify a number of socioeconomic factors behind this trend, including an overall decline in the working class.


This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.



  1. FireBaron April 1, 2017

    Wow! So it took a bunch of suburban white kids ODing to get the country to wake up. Guess over 50 years of it happening to People of Color didn’t matter.

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    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 2, 2017

      You’re right, and this is a sad commentary on the lack of a balanced spiritual nature on the part of so many Americans Too many officials and their supporters devalue others based on skin color and ethnicity. We’ve got to change this distortion of the human spirit which allowed crack cocaine to be ignored, and to simply jail anyone with a drug addiction.

      For much of that attitude, we have Ronald Reagan, Nixon, A.L.E.C., and others to place a bulk of the blame on. Of course, those who resort to drug use have to bear responsibility as well, but if only the Federal Government had been more compassionate and pro-active rather than reactive in the 60’s through the 80’s, we wouldn’t have to be talking about this gross inequity today.

      1. dpaano April 24, 2017

        I have a valid question….do any of you think that legalizing marijuana is a good thing? Personally, I don’t agree with legalizing it, but maybe I’m wrong. I would like to know what others on this site think…..

        1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 25, 2017

          A good question my sister. We should be very careful about what we think is lawful and harmless. The situation with marijuana is murky, and so far there is no sense of unanimity on whether there are long-term health risks when used casually.
          Therefore, it’s wiser to err on the side of caution, and use it if there is irrefutable evidence of its efficacy for ills under supervision.

          So it would seem to me that to legalize it is just an easy way out to let people get strung out for fun, while vegging out and being unable to concentrate on more important physical and mental tasks.

          In college, I refused to engage in smoking what my schoolmates were smoking on a regular basis, because by then I was a Baha’i. That didn’t keep me from getting a contact high, even though I was so naive as to be unaware that such a thing existed. (Growing up in a middle-class home in Mississippi in the 60’s had its advantages).
          I had to have fellow renters make a joke about me getting a contact high to find out, while we listened to jazz and played chess.

          1. dpaano April 25, 2017

            I guess I sorta agree with you in a couple of ways. I was reading an article in the L.A. Times about CBD, which is a derivative of marijuana…..it’s the part of the drug that actually helps relieve pain. This particular medication does NOT make you high like full-blown marijuana. I know you can buy it at marijuana distributors, and I’ve never tried it. I have a friend that brought me a chocolate bar with CBD to try for my arthritis, but I haven’t had the guts to try it yet. She said to take just a little bite at first and see how it affected me…..but I still have this aversion to drugs of any kind (although I do take Tramadol for the pain, but it’s a very low dose and I don’t think it’s actually considered to be a dangerous opiate). I refuse to take anything stronger because I guess I was just taught that you should never need drugs to survive. But, I do realize now that I’m older, sometimes you get to the point where anything that works is agreeable. I guess, one of these days, I’ll have to try the chocolate bar with the CBD and see what happens…….scary for me!

          2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 25, 2017

            I understand the pain thing. I ruptured a disk playing pick-up basketball at a gym one weekend during the start of my senior year in college. The pain became unbearable by the 2nd term, and ever since it has been an annoyance, and I refused to get back surgery which a zealous orthopedist suggested I do. I’ve ignored that advice, and thankfully I have a high tolerance for pain, and more so for the type that’s just annoying.
            Your input on that derivative sounds like a sound approach, and one which should lead to no addiction. As alcohol can be addictive, if administered properly it is quite beneficial. As my dad would jokingly say when I caught him raiding the cookie box in the kitchen, “I’m eating these for medicinal purposes. Indeed!” That was our constant running joke.

            Here’s an interesting digression—There are several Tablets revealed by Baha’u’llah on the subject of healing. One prominent one, which has been partially translated from the Arabic, portions incorporated in a corpus called “Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah”), there is His remark that medicine will undergo tremendous advances; Abdu’l Baha in elaborating on what his Father wrote on the topic of healing, stated that in the future, humans will have the ability to address medical problems using, for example, herbs and different temperatures of water.

            MY NOTE: A lot of this advancement will depend on the rate of maturing and the change in orientation of human behavior and attitudes, thereby leading to more maturity, insight, and better focused on fusing science with Religion, as expressed for this Day and Age. Further evolution of human capacities will make Star Trek technology like the “Tricorder”(sp?), used by Dr. Beverly Crusher in the episodes, a reality. In the meantime, do what you feel is best for you with your physician’s input.

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  3. Independent1 April 2, 2017

    And 8 out of 10 of the states with the highest drug use are GOP-run states:


    Just one more way GOP-run states lead the nation in premature deaths.

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  4. Dominick Vila April 2, 2017

    At first glance, seeing so many young Americans suffering from depression or despair, in the richest and most powerful country in the world, may seem perplexing and hard to believe, but it is not. The reasons are far from being too difficult to understand. The incredible material and financial wealth we have accumulated as a nation has gone mostly to a small segment of our population, and to a lesser extent to the upper middle class. The ability of a person with a high school diploma to succeed, move up the ladder, buy a house, two cars, provide for his/her family, and send the kids to college is no longer a reality. It is a chimera or dream that will never again materialize, and more and more young people realize that. The expectations to qualify for a good paying job are simply unattainable for many young Americans. The rhetoric that convinced so many Americans that we are exceptional and deserving of the best that money – and power – can buy, comes crashing down when so many Americans realize that the best they can hope for is a meal at McDonalds. Depression, despair, and the absence of hope don’t happen without a reason. Until our leaders, and those who can make a difference, step up to the plate and do something to change the trend and effects of the policies and behavior that have contributed to the epidemic we are now enduring, it is likely to get much worse before it gets better. Interestingly, the only ray of hope may be those evil immigrants whose aspirations and work ethics remind us of those who scraped the land and risked everything to make this the great country it has always been.

  5. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 2, 2017

    The old adage that we can run but can’t hide, seems to be playing itself out in an unfamiliar venue for most Americans.

    For quite some time, many people felt that the problems seen most often in society was confined to particular regions/neighborhoods, and therefore would never touch those who chose to divorce themselves from the cares of their fellow humans.

    This is the cold and callous perception of many Americans who thought as Nixon and Reagan did in the 60’s to the 80’s. Instead of recognizing and feeling the deep connections they had with black and Hispanic citizens who had started to succumb to the ravages of drugs and despair, and which would translate into criminal activity, Reagan and Nixon felt that instead of applying empathy and showing love, that a blunt force method would be best.

    Thus, a warlike approach, with concern for business and making money foremost—something unique to western societies—was decided on, with barbaric themes like “War On Drugs”, and its cousin, “The War on Crime”.
    (Even the Democrats got suckered into promoting this cruel method of responding to social ills, with Bill Clinton and others signing on. Why? So as to “compete” with Republicans to win votes—just another fatal flaw in partisan government).

    Right now, many in the GOP are quite proud to be able to further enhance such “wars” by adding a systematic money-making and profit methodology to dealing with social problems, even to the extent of a satanic idea of privatizing the penal system to make money for federal and state agencies. And the courts have participated in this fiendish strategy.

    “ALEC”(American Legislative Exchange Council) is a non-profit(?) body of conservative policy-makers who came up with a strategy of crafting legislation proposals for state and federal politicians in order to make money via laws, and to hide their nefarious intentions under this clever appropriate euphemistic title.

    As least Bill Clinton realized some years later that he erred grievously in adopting this war-like approach. Will the GOP admit its error? Will they approach the opioid addiction problem with the same war-like fervor that Nixon and Reagan used when crack cocaine was the drug of choice? Better that the GOP show the same concern for drug addicts which they should have shown in the past, and which sane and empathetic humans are able to display—a foreign concept to Trump, Steve Bannon, and their supporters.

    1. Carl Sdano April 2, 2017

      Aaron, I live in in a red county whose state representative (R,Nygren) is all things right wing republican. meaning less government. But his daughter has an opioid addiction. So, of course (and to his credit) he’s asking for more state money to help the addicted both with treatment & in the courts. But, until the problem personally effects these elected officials, they could care less.

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 2, 2017

        As you note, the addiction problem, whether opioid, heroin, or cocaine, is a problem which officials don’t relate to because it’s “them” and not the politicians’ children.
        There is a wide-spread notion in America that if someone else is hurting, then it’s their fault. Notice how a lack of empathy is so pervasive that a large number of those who claim to be religious have become detached from the Essence and the Message of their Religion. This results in an absence of empathy, severs any sense of connection with the pains and ills of other members of society, and in turn poisons the attitudes of both the electorate and those chosen from among the electorate as the so-called leaders on the political level.
        Unfortunately, this extends to many religious leaders, municipal workers, and many of our teachers.

        The solution is to re-educate society to the necessity of cultivating spiritual qualities, which will allow for youth and children to grow up with empathy and to be able to exhibit other spiritual qualities.

        Here is an excerpt from the Writings of the Baha’i Faith on the theme of education—
        “Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education hath, however, deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess. Through a word proceeding out of the mouth of God he was called into being; by one word more he was guided to recognize the Source of his education; by yet another word his station and destiny were safeguarded. The Great Being saith: Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom. …”

        This is from a Tablet written originally in Arabic by Baha’u’llah. In Arabic, the word for “people” in the general sense doesn’t connote “maleness”, but in translation, the word by custom chosen in English is “Man”—FYI.
        I happen to be a Baha’i, and with a female Baha’i in a nearby community I lived in; the two of us embarked independently to offer a neighborhood Children’s Class for the purpose of teaching some neighbors’ children about developing spiritual virtues.

        Although the families were Christian, they knew me as being a Baha’i, and trusted me and my female friend to teach their children every Sunday using what we call the Ruhi method using a special book called Ruhi Book 3.

        It was successful and the kids appreciated the arts and the lessons on virtues—also, they enjoyed the games and snacks, and field trips to local universities and museums.

        1. idamag April 3, 2017

          It is the “blame the victim” syndrome. If the victim brought it on himself, then it doesn’t bother me. I don’t have to care. As a whole, we are not a caring people. Many of us are. But generally. We are the people that turned a shipload of Jewish people back to Germany to be killed. We are the people who stood at the border screaming at little children who were escaping the violence and death of the drug cartels. They were fleeing for their lives. Their mothers were willing to send their little children along across the border to save them. We are the country with the most gun deaths in the world. If a girl was raped they used to blame the victim. Especially if that boy came from a family with clout.

          1. Mama Bear April 3, 2017


          2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 5, 2017

            Yes. The “blame the victim” syndrome appears to have gained traction at the same time that our ability to connect with fellow human beings began to falter once the Industrial Revolution began to kick in. By the 19th Century, the US and other nations had begun to formalize an insular and isolationist policy. That worked only for the historical “blink of an eye”, and nowadays we’re feeling a fuller measure of this injurious perception.

    2. plc97477 April 5, 2017

      I think they are going to have to make a change in the way they meet the problem because the problem has entered the white areas and the non-minorities.

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 5, 2017

        Yes, it’s unfortunate that we didn’t address the problem decades ago with a more mature and spiritual attitude. And now, the cancer is spreading out across the nation, like racism, Trumpism, and lyme disease.

  6. Mama Bear April 2, 2017

    I am pretty certain that I will take some abuse for this – but….if it were young children it would be one thing, but when a person reaches the age of accountability he/she is, well…accountable. We should provide treatment facilities and help, but beyond that if someone need to do these drugs to survive…

    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 5, 2017

      There needs to be accountability on the part of those still having the emotional/mental wherewithal to address the issue. Unfortunately, that ability has been suppressed by decades of neglect by fellow humans, and years of being strung out on drugs, and now the burden shifts to you, me, and those in official capacities to lend assistance.
      So, a two-pronged approach is needed: A concerted effort to awaken parents and relatives of those afflicted, to help them understand the need to inform their children and family members to be responsible in their choices and to seek help; and at the same time, firmly coerce leaders and politicians to take some responsibility in effectively confronting the problem, and providing social services, without letting partisan bickering getting in the way. Of course, the latter may mean society has to pay more financially, but that’s what altruism and reciprocity are all about.

      1. Mama Bear April 5, 2017

        of course you are right, Aaron, and I was actually referring to the day before the person takes the second hit of whatever he/she is taking. I also know from experience counselling people on drugs that to be effective with them you have to be certain from the start that they understand that the responsibility lies at their own feet and only they can effect any changes. Once they accept that then you have a shot at helping them.

  7. idamag April 3, 2017

    My state is a red rural state. If you talk among the populous, you hear a lot of negative, helpless to change anything, fatalists. One of my lifelong friends said to me, “There is no use talking about it, we can’t do anything about it anyway. We have a high number of teen suicides. We are 12th from the top in overall suicides. We are close to the bottom in quality of education. We pay our teachers an embarrassing wage. One of our state legislators said they are overpaid as it is. With all this negativity and depression I can see why people are self-medicating. They feel helpless to do anything.

    1. Mama Bear April 3, 2017

      I too live in a very ugly red state, ida…much of it rural, and we recently hit the big time being named #1 in drug deaths. We used to have a great public education system…but then we used to have a Democratic governor. When Kasich took of the first thing he did was “cut taxes as promised”…thing is, he took it from the education system. The levies being imposed upon homeowners has been outrageous and it is still not back to par. But…he cut taxes.


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