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In a recent op-ed, I discussed the fundamental role despair has played in the opioid crisis. Further that the horrifying and climbing number of opioid deaths is part of a larger phenomenon of deaths of despair – drug overdose, alcoholism, suicide – that began at the millennium, reversing a decades-long trend of increasing longevity. Finally, that these deaths of despair have disproportionately stricken young to middle-aged, unemployed, non-college graduate whites.
One might argue that these statistics suggest that this despair primarily is a result of material want. Yet that proposition ignores the fact that, in the annals of human history, contemporary Americans live in relative super abundance. This is not to say there are not some who struggle with the basics of necessity, but most living in poverty have adequate food, clothing and shelter. Furthermore, poor Americans benefit from hygiene and healthcare advances, and own conveniences, e.g. heating, air conditioning, cell phones, appliances, automobiles, entertainment, etc. not only unavailable but unimaginable to the wealthiest of a hundred years ago.
Education - System - Economy - People - Society
One might also argue that if we had a better education system and a stronger economy so that more people were working and self-sufficient, all would be well with our society. There is no doubt that the dignity and satisfaction of self-direction and self-sufficiency are important components to an individual’s happiness; however, frank observation of contemporary relatively affluent, educated and working America demonstrates all is not well.
A Journal of the American Medical Association study found that 16.7 percent (20.8 percent of white adults) of 242 million U.S. adults – reported filling one or more prescriptions for psychiatric drugs in 2013. The majority of these were anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications. Other research has found that rates of major depression episodes for adolescents has also increased over the last 10 years. Suicide is now the...
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