Deaths of despair

Deaths of despair, death from alcoholism, drug overdoses, and suicides have become a consistent explanation for the increasing mortality in middle-aged White males. A new viewpoint calls our attention to the deaths of despair among Native Americans.
Deaths of despair were first defined by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, two economists, in 2015. These were deaths due to suicide, overdoses, and alcoholic liver diseases disproportionately impacting White males without a college degree. As Vox [1] so vividly described the problem, “In 2017 alone, there were 158,000 deaths of despair in the US: the equivalent of “three fully loaded Boeing 737 MAX jets falling out of the sky every day for a year.” A new study seeks to understand why these deaths increase in the US, but not 16 other high-income, industrialized nations.
Dr. Bloom has written eloquently and often about individuals with chronic pain, caught-up in opioid guidelines designed to reduce the deaths due to drug overdoses. But many, if not most of those deaths, are due to despair. Wouldn’t it be better to treat this problem and ease the guidelines on individuals in chronic pain that are “collateral damage?”