US 'deaths of despair' surge to highest rates since 2005, report reveals

Deaths from alcohol, suicide, and drug overdoses reached an all-time high in the US in 2017, according to a new report. 

These 'deaths of despair' have been deemed a 'national crisis' but a 'regional epidemic' by the Commonwealth Fund, which released its annual report on Wednesday. 

Rates of these deaths have climbed across the nation, but the mid-Atlantic states - including Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia - have been struck hardest by drug overdoses, driven by the ongoing opioid epidemic. 

Since 2005, alcohol-related deaths have increased by 37 percent, the national rate of suicide has risen by 28 percent and drug overdose deaths have more than doubled, surging by 115 percent in just 12 years. 

Deaths by drug overdoses (purple), suicide (blue) and related to alcohol (green) reached their highest levels in the US since 2005, a graph from the new Commonwealth Fund report shows

Deaths by drug overdoses (purple), suicide (blue) and related to alcohol (green) reached their highest levels in the US since 2005, a graph from the new Commonwealth Fund report shows 

Deaths by suicide, alcohol and, especially, drug overdoses are decimating the US. 

With the opioid epidemic at the helm, these deaths of despair have hit the nation so hard that the average American's life expectancy has been driven down for the last three years in a row.  

Though no state in the US is untouched by these devastating - and preventable - death tolls, some regions of the country have been impacted far worse than others.

Nowhere has suffered at the hands of the opioid overdose epidemic so much as West Virginia, where 57.8 out of every 100,000 deaths in 2017 was due to a drug overdose. 

Even the next worst-impacted state, Ohio, saw significantly fewer deaths, with 46.3 deaths per 100,000 attributed to drug overdoses. 

West Virginia's death toll was more than twice that of the national average in 2017. 

That's terrible news for West Virginia, but signals a somewhat heartening nationwide shift. 

Researchers from the Commonwealth Fund write that 'the overdose rate has moderated somewhat recently.' 

However, there was still a 10 percent increase in these deaths between 2016 and 2017, so there is still much room for progress. 

Alcohol and suicide continue to

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