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Skyrocketing Deaths Due to Alcohol, Drugs and Suicide — But Why?

The national rates for deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide are the highest they’ve ever been since federal data collection began in 1999, USA Today reports. In wake of the news, health officials called for new approaches, funding and support to reduce the risk of addiction and overdose, as well as help for mental health problems.

The news agency mentioned that deaths from opioids, including fentanyl, rose 45 percent, tenfold in the past five years.

By the end of 2018, fentanyl had risen to the leading cause of all overdose deaths in the U.S., surpassing heroin and oxycodone. In 2016 alone, fentanyl was involved in nearly 30 percent of drug overdose deaths. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl doubled each year from 2013 through 2016, from 0.6 per 100,000 in 2013 to 5.9 in 2016, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

Fentanyl isn’t a drug to take lightly: It’s a synthetic opioid that’s up to 100 times stronger than morphine, originally developed as a pharmaceutical drug for the treatment of cancer pain (typically administered in the form of a patch on the skin).

Fentanyl has a number of street names, ranging from China White and Apace to Great Bear and He-Man, but the ones that are the most fitting are Poison and Murder 8. When fentanyl is ingested, it produces a sense of well-being or euphoria that reduces anxiety and aggression.

The high is intense, but it’s also only temporary, giving way to drowsiness, trouble concentrating and apathy. If too much is taken, fentanyl can also lead to slowed respiration, reduced blood pressure, nausea, fainting, seizures, coma and death.

Indeed, health officials need to do anything and everything they can to stop this scourge. But, that said, too often — many times because it’s almost taboo to speak about it when it happens — suicide isn’t taken as seriously as something you can see and feel like a drug or alcohol.

And the truth is suicide is on the rise at alarming rates — a trend blamed on the effects of social isolation, economic pressures, opioid addiction and limited access to mental health care.

Tragically, suicide has also risen sharply among children and teens. This simply must speak to some deeper societal problems at work, although antidepressants may play a role in some of these cases as well. You may agree whole-heartedly with these ideas, but, would you know these 12 warning signs that someone thinking of suicide overtly or subliminally may express?

1. Feeling like a burden

2. Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

3. Increased anger or rage

4. Sleeping too little or too much

5. Being isolated

6. Increased substance abuse

7. Increased anxiety

8. Looking for a way to access lethal means

9. Extreme mood swings

10. Expressing hopelessness

11. Making plans for suicide

12. Talking or posting about wanting to die

If you notice one or more of these signs, take the following five steps to help.

1. Ask how they are feeling and if they are considering ending their life, or if they have a plan to do so

2. Don't let them be alone and do your best to keep them safe

3. Make yourself available to them

4. Reach out to them daily and help them connect to others

5. Follow up

If you live in the U.S. and are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line. If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911 for immediate assistance.
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