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U.S. surpasses record 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021
A sign calling attention to drug overdoses is posted to the door of a gas station on the White Earth Reservation in Ogema, Minn. (David Goldman/AP)
More Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021 than any previous year, a grim milestone in an epidemic that has now claimed 1 million lives in the 21st century, according to federal data released Wednesday.
More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, up 15 percent from the previous year, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics. The soberingtally reflects challenges exacerbated by the pandemic: lost access to treatment, social isolation and a more potent drug supply.
More than 80,000 people died using opioids, including prescription pain pills and fentanyl, a deadly drug 100 times as powerful as morphine and increasingly present in other drugs. Deaths from methamphetamine and cocaine also rose.
Since the start of the 21st century, an overdose epidemic led by prescription pain pills and followed by waves of heroin, fentanyl and meth has killed more than 1 million people, or roughly the population of San Jose, according to the provisional data.
And there is no clear end in sight, according to experts.
“2022 will probably be as horrible as 2021 was, quite possibly worse,” said Keith Humphreys, an addiction and drug policy researcher at Stanford University.
Overdose deaths jumped to previously unseen levels in the first half of the pandemic, rising 30 percent from 2019 to 2020. The coronavirus pandemic strained finances, mental health, housing and more for many, all the while overshadowing the drug crisis. There is concern that a predicted spike in cases this fall could again curtail access to treatment and medication.
Covid has taken as many lives in two years compared to the opioid epidemic’s two-decade span. The victims of the drug epidemic, however, are overwhelmingly young. Between 2015 and 2019, young Americans lost an estimated 1.2 million years of life from drug overdoses, according to a study published in JAMA in January.
Rural areas have been especially devastated by the overdose crisis during the pandemic, as residents struggle to reach remote, limited treatment options. Alaska experienced the biggest increase in overdose deaths in 2021, roughly 75 percent, according to the federal data. The National Center for Health Statistics is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The uneven nature of this modern plague may be due in part to how fentanyl has seeped into the drug supply. It first dominated the West and New England but has spread across the country, Humphreys said, suggesting that it and other synthetic drugs could drive out less potent drugs in the next decade. Fentanyl, increasingly laced in counterfeit pills bought online and made in labs, is easier to produce than plant-based drugs, he said.
“There may not be much heroin around in 10 years because everything is fentanyl,” Humphreys said. “What do you do in a world where no one needs a farm anymore to make drugs?”
Humphreys, who has estimated that there could be another million overdose deaths in the next decade if policy does not change, said there is no silver bullet to addressing the multifaceted crisis. But one of the most sound ways to reduce overdoses, he said, is greater access to naloxone, the medication to reverse opioid overdoses.
“I think of naloxone like I do fire extinguishers,” he said. “Generally, they sit on a wall and they’re not needed. But when there’s a fire, there’s nothing like a fire extinguisher.”
In a first, the Biden administration presented a National Drug Control Strategy to Congress last month to lay out a road map for addressing untreated addiction and drug trafficking. The plan calls for an expansion of naloxone, drug test strips and syringe distribution programs.
While the plan takes the right steps toward mitigating the damages of the crisis, the harm is done, said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of drug policy at the global programs at Open Society Foundations. The upward trend of deaths will continue until the ideas trickle down to actual policy over the hardest-hit communities.
As part of his strategy to curb the flow of fentanyl into the country, Biden asked Congress in his budget for a $300 million bump in funding for the Customs and Border Protection agency and an increase of $300 million for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The DEA issued a rare public warning last year over the alarming amount of fake pills bought online and laced with potentially lethal amounts of fentanyl.
Another wrinkle for the administration is ensuring the resources reach those who most need them, as the stigma of drugs has alienated some users.
In addition, Malinowska-Sempruch said Biden’s plan stops short of recommending some solutions that could help meet drug users where they are, such as decriminalizing personal possession and creating supervised injection sites, where trained monitors watch users to step in and counter overdoses.
“It’s going to take a while before it can get better,” Malinowska-Sempruch said, “and that while is going to continue to cost lives.”
In the meantime, the Biden administration has pushed forward with “a new era of drug policy,” according to the White House Drug Czar Rahul Gupta, who pointed to actions to make overdoses preventable, such as distributing naloxone.
“It is unacceptable that we are losing a life to overdose every five minutes around-the-clock,” Gupta said.
One of the leading voices and biggest success stories in the FIRE movement — short for “financial independence, retire early” — the self-made millionaire has amassed enough money to live comfortably off income from his investments in perpetuity.
Sabatier views his situation as the end goal for people who think about money the way he does: not as something that allows you to buy things, but as a means of giving you more choices in how you want to live. “With every dollar you save, you give yourself more freedom and options in life,” he told Grow. “Based on how much you have saved and invested, ask yourself, ‘How many months of freedom have you acquired?’”
Rather than play golf or charter fishing boats, Sabatier has spent post-9-to-5 life in what he calls “a mission-driven phase.” In his book “ Financial Freedom,” as well as in the Financial Freedom Course, an online personal finance curriculum, Sabatier offers a roadmap to money security which includes seven levels of financial freedom, ranging from Clarity all the way up to Abundant Wealth.
Progressing through the levels likely requires a shift in your financial habits and overall thinking around money, Sabatier says.
Sabatier’s 7 levels of financial freedom Level 1: Clarity
The first step is taking stock of your financial situation — how much money you have, how much you owe, and what your goals are. “You can’t get to where you want to go without knowing where you’re starting from,” Sabatier says.
Level 2: Self-Sufficiency
Next, you’ll want to be standing on your own two feet, financially speaking. This means earning enough to cover your expenses without any outside help, such as contributions from Mom and Dad.
At this level, Sabatier notes, you may be living paycheck-to-paycheck or taking on loans to make ends meet.
VIDEO3:3203:32 How a FIRE supersaver plans to retire at 32 Saving
Escaping Level 2 means giving yourself some financial leeway, which Sabatier notes doesn’t necessarily mean making a much bigger salary. Indeed, 31% of working Americans making over $100,000 live paycheck-to-paycheck, according to MagnifyMoney.
“Just because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re actually saving that money,” Sabatier says. “Most people in this country live through debt.”
Level 4: Stability
Those who reach Level 4 have paid down high interest rate debt, such as credit card debt, and have stashed away six months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund. Building up emergency savings helps ensure that your finances won’t be thrown off track by unexpected circumstances.
“At this level, you’re not worried if you lose your job or if you have to move to a different city,” Sabatier says.
VIDEO1:0601:06 Suze Orman explains emergency savings Saving
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
When calculating how much you’d need to have saved, thinking about what your financial picture might look like understand exigent circumstances, rather then your regular, everyday expenses, financial experts say.
“If you have a job loss, you’d make some changes. You’d probably cut your gym membership and get rid of your subscriptions, for instance,” Christine Benz, director of personal finance and retirement planning at Morningstar, told Grow. “Think about the bare minimum you’d need to get by.”
Level 5: Flexibility
People at Level 5 have at least two years’ worth of living expenses saved. With those kinds of savings, Sabatier suggests, you have the ability to think about your money terms of the time it can buy you: “You could take a year off from your job if you wanted to.”
You needn’t carry all of this money in cash, Sabatier notes: It could be a sum total from your savings and investment accounts. As long as you’re able to access that money somehow, if you need it, you have the flexibility to untether yourself, at least temporarily, from the workforce.
Level 6: Financial Independence
People who have achieved financial independence can live solely off the income generated from their investments, according to Sabatier’s framework.
“You generally have one of two things,” says Sabatier. “You either have a large pile of money in an investment portfolio that’s generating interest, or you have rental properties, and cashflow from the rent covers your living expenses, or a hybrid of the two.”
VIDEO13:4813:48 Is retiring early actually a good idea? Investing
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
To get here, you’ll have to invest a high percentage of your income, which could require you to shift to a more modest lifestyle to drastically lower your cost of living. Pursuing this lifestyle requires a change in thinking away from the traditional paradigms of personal finance, Sabatier says.
“People are being taught to save 5%, 10%, 15% of their income, and maybe you’ll be able to retire when you’re 65,” he says. “Thankfully, more young people are starting to understand that if I aggressively save and invest, I can work less and have more control over my future and my destiny.”
Level 7: Abundant
WealthFinancially independent folks who live off their portfolio income rely on the “ 4% rule” — a retirement rule of thumb that posits that an investor can safely withdraw 4%, adjusted for inflation, from a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds each year, and be relatively certain that the money will continue to grow and won’t run out.
Although economists debate whether 4% is the optimal number (some more conservative observers think the right figure might be closer to 3.3%), the calculation behind it serves as the basis for establishing a FIRE number — the amount of money you’d need to retire and earn an annual income you could comfortably live on.
More young people are starting to understand that if I aggressively save and invest, I can work less and have more control over my future and my destiny.
Grant Sabatier author of ‘Financial Freedom’
While those in Level 6 need to monitor swings in their portfolio to make sure their retirement is still going according to plan, those in Level 7 have no such worries. “Level 7 is abundant wealth — having more money than you’ll ever need,” Sabatier says. “You don’t have to worry about money, and it’s not essential to your day-to-day existence.”
It’s the level where Sabatier finds himself, and the one he wants to get you to as well, if you’re willing to shift your mindset around money.
“If you want your life to look different, you have to make different choices,” he says. “Blueprints are available.”
Volume remains thin... even if having had a bit of price appreciation.
Although, a bit more volume seems to be appearing closer to the other end of the trade... where, interestingly, they show roughly the same price on the last trade...
It appears to be getting closer to realizing those risks I had noted back when they made the additions to the balance sheet... as debt used to acquire the coins imposes the inevitable in BK at a price certain... somewhere below 30,700... a margin call said to occur at 20,000... which Peter Schiff decided to discuss today...
The two leaders underlined their attachment to respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, according to the Elysee. They also discussed the risk of an ensuing food crisis and France’s proposal for a Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission.
Ukraine's territorial integrity already shot to hell... Mr. Xi seems to be talking out of both sides of mouth ... I am losing patience with him...as if he cares LOL
Inconsistent with his aligning Russia and China as models of the world
Putin comparing Ukraine to Nazi incursion into Russia.. His comparison may be ironically correct... but not as he sees it ... one can only hope...
again reminds me of Al Stewart's (IMO) best tune..
All summer they drove us back through the Ukraine .. prescient ? in reverse :)
Another nice metaphor in light of US supplied weapons :)
Two broken Tigers on fire in the night Flicker their souls to the wind
--U.S. surpasses record 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021--
golly, still no mention of national levels of toxic psychological stress... but then it's easier to simply blame it on drugs and not address social conditions related to why folks in the u.s. need to take risky drugs to find peace. -nfg-