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US deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide hit record high: Study

Raymond, who has been traveling the state looking for work, stands along a street on August 22, 2018 in Clarksburg, West Virginia, a state that still struggles with endemic poverty and opioid abuse. (AFP photo)

More than 150,000 people in the United States died in 2017 due to suicide, alcohol and drugs, an all-time high, according to a new analysis of government data.

Nationwide, the number of deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide rose 6 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to an analysis of data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That number was more than double 1999 levels, according to the CDC data, which was analyzed by Trust for America's Health and Well Being Trust, two public health nonprofits.

Deaths from suicides rose 4 percent, the study found. Between 2008 and 2017, suicide rates rose an average of 2 percent per year, or 22 percent overall.

Deaths from narcotics, including the pain reliever fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, rose 45 percent between 2016 and 2017, a tenfold increase in the last five years.

Psychologist Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer of the Well Being Trust, says broader efforts are needed to address the underlying causes of alcohol and drug use and suicide.

"It's almost a joke how simple we're trying to make these issues," he says. "We're not changing direction and it's getting worse."

Overall, 43 states and Washington, DC, saw their death rates from alcohol, drugs and suicide rise between 2016 and 2017.

"As a nation, we need to better understand and to systematically address the factors that drive these devastating deaths of despair," said John Auerbach, CEO of Trust for America's Health.

The rise in drug overdose deaths and suicides in 2017 were main factors contributing to the ongoing decline in life expectancy in the US since 2014.

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