Roy Exum: 'Deaths Of Despair' Soar

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In 2019 the wackos in Oregon banned drinking straws, claiming those plastic 12-inchers were clogging up the Pacific Ocean. So, in somewhat of an evil paradox, the druggies are now racing around like lost sheep after the progressives on The Left Coast just legalized cocaine, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine and other hard drugs. “Without straws, how are we gonna’ snort a line of blow?” they wonder.

Yet this is anything but funny. Last week five more states legalized recreational marijuana … bringing the number to 17 states where marijuana is cool … and Oregon even legitimized “the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms,” whatever that is. Maybe that’s the reason they’ve been rioting in Portland almost every night for six months; that and the fact the Portland DA refuses to prosecute any who are arrested.

Marijuana has just been legalized in New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, Montana, and Mississippi (medical). In Oregon, a person who is found in possession of “hard drugs” can pay a $100 fine to avoid the courts and then attend an addiction recovery program that is well-financed by tax revenues from the legalization of recreational marijuana that the state passed several years ago. Is that a rosy solution or what?

What the liberal drum-bangers don’t tell us is that this year – in 2020, this with the COVID pandemic raging -- our nation will set three dubious records for (1) the most deaths from drug overdoses, (2) the most deaths directly due to alcohol, and (3) the most deaths by suicide in our nation’s history. One recent study claims more Americans will die from drug overdoses than will be killed in car wrecks.

The new catchword is “deaths of despair” and one estimate says the overdoses, the alcohol abuse, and the suicides could add almost 100,000 to the year-end total number of deaths in the United States. Obviously, mental health can no longer be overlooked nor taken for granted in our nation where over 50 percent of the states’ counties have not one licensed psychiatrist.

Tennessee is woefully unprepared, and it is so bad that state mental hospitals, all at over-capacity, will accept no incoming patient unless it can be demonstrated that the patient is a lethal danger to others or themselves.

The American Medical Association realizes overdose deaths are a frightful epidemic on their own. “Nearly 72,000 Americans died from a drug-related overdose last year and reports from more than 40 states show increasing concerns about the overdose epidemic may become worse.”

Richard Jorgensen, MD, coroner for DuPage County, Il., a suburban community west of Chicago, issued a public safety bulletin in May after the county had two straight days where it recorded three fatal overdoses. “That’s unheard of in this area,” he said at the time.

In August, Dr. Jorgensen announced that in the first six months of 2020, compared to the 2019 figures, DuPage County deaths grew 52 percent, to 70 from 46. He also recorded that there were 17 overdose deaths before pandemic isolation -- and 54 since.

Get this -- his statement also included, “Almost every case of overdose revealed that the deceased person had a history of mental health issues, depression, personal, financial or marital problems, previous drug dependence or rehabilitation, or were living alone,” Dr. Jorgensen wrote.

“It is suggested by these findings that the most vulnerable in our society are being affected negatively by the COVID-19 shutdown and response to isolation and lack of treatment availability.”

An NBC report last month confirmed the overdose outbreak is every bit as real as the COVID flare-up. “The AP reviewed preliminary overdose death statistics from nine states with more recent counts — Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington. Most included data allowing comparisons to earlier years, and those numbers show overdose deaths outpacing what was reported during the same months of 2019, in some cases by substantial margins.

“In Connecticut, for example, preliminary overdose death counts were up more than 19 percent through the end of July, compared with the same time frame last year. They were up 9 percent in Washington through the end of August, 28 percent in Colorado, and 30 percent in Kentucky during that same period.

“Overdose deaths were trending up even before the virus emerged. So, 2020 may well have been to be a bad year even without the pandemic," said Dana Quesinberry, who oversees a University of Kentucky project focused on state overdose deaths.

Opioid overdoses have been curbed, in large part because of state crackdowns and prescription drug registries, but easy availability of cheaper ‘hard drugs’ on the street have made fentanyl and ‘meth’ today’s biggest killers.

“Beginning in the mid-1990s, the rise of U.S. overdose deaths was driven by abuse of prescription opioid painkillers. Gradually, many people turned to cheaper, more accessible street drugs such as heroin and a more lethal drug, fentanyl. In 2015, heroin began causing more deaths than prescription painkillers or other drugs. In 2016, fentanyl and its close cousins became the biggest drug killer.

“There’s no comprehensive data yet on which drugs were used in 2020 overdose deaths, but fentanyl and methamphetamine — often ‘meth’ that is laced with fentanyl — are now the most common killers.” Several years ago, researchers in North Carolina authored “The Great Smoky Mountain Report” and it included the seven top indicators for despair. According to a widely cited paper, a ever-growing despair is a hallmark reason that can end in death.

“Two indicators — feeling hopeless and having low self-esteem — are among the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder, a psychiatric condition consisting of a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years in adults. Another indicator — feeling unloved — is a symptom of major depression, a mental disorder characterized by bouts of overwhelming sadness and social isolation lasting at least two weeks.

“A fourth indicator — worrying frequently — contributes to what mental health clinicians call generalized anxiety disorder. The remaining three indicators — loneliness, helplessness, and feeling sorry for oneself — are not symptoms of any psychiatric disorder,” according to the findings.

Not to belabor the report, it tells us that “combining those seven indicators into a despair scale let the researchers compare levels of despair among youngsters. Between 1 and 5 percent of children and teens in the study experienced at least one symptom on the scale in the three months before being interviewed.

“Among 25- to 30-year-olds, about 20 percent reported one despair item, and 7.6 percent cited at least two despair items, in the previous three months. Few participants suffered from more than five of the seven despair indicators. Individuals who cited single despair items related to depression rarely qualified for a depressive disorder in psychiatry’s diagnostic manual.”

No matter. Despair is very, very real. And the startling fact is clear: About 100,000 Americans will die this year from “Deaths of Despair.” With a promising vaccine for COVID suddenly on the horizon, the prayer is we may soon be able to stem the 241,708-and-counting deaths this year from the coronavirus.

Obviously, it  is going to take far more than a vaccine to rid us from the relentless devil of despair. You hardly need to be a fortune teller to foresee 2021, 2022 and beyond, in our mental illness plight and we must face it right now, and with all our might.

I don’t believe the legalization of ‘hard drugs’ will lead many to drug counselling and that Oregon’s liberal views will turn out to be a mess, just as a failure to prosecute the Portland rioters will make the chaos stop. Cocaine, LSD, “meth” and psychedelic mushrooms are not play toys, nor are the guns of suicide, or the stealth of bottled alcohol. There is a darn good reason for “controlled substances.” If Oregon can’t grasp that, make sure you get you arms around it.

But I do know that until the states of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama recognize the devastating affects of despair, the deaths are guaranteed to sadly increase. While a death from COVID is as horrible as any I could ever imagine, a death from despair may be worse for one most valid reason.
We could have done something to humanly prevent it.

royexum@aol.com


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