The Despair That’s Killing White, Middle-Aged Americans

En español | For decades, the death rate among all groups of Americans has been steadily declining, thanks to advances in medicine and quality of life. But 15 years ago, that trend suddenly reversed for one group: white Americans ages 45 to 54. In what a new study termed “an epidemic of despair,” two Princeton economists find that suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse are driving up deaths among less-educated, middle-aged, white Americans — some of it due to job loss and financial …

Surviving an Adult Child’s Drug Addiction

One morning last June, Colorado mom Patricia Byrne went online to read her Canton, Mass., hometown newspaper. What she read changed her life: an obituary for a 26-year-old young man who was a childhood playmate of her children. The cause of death: heroin overdose. Her son, Kurt, is a recovering addict, and Byrne thought about how the Massachusetts family must be suffering. She knew too well about the guilt and embarrassment that parents of addicts endure in silence. After reading …

Painkiller Death Rate Highest Among Older Adults

The rate of overdose deaths from powerful painkillers has nearly quadrupled since 1999, but new government figures show that since 2006, the rate of increase has finally slowed — except among older adults. According to a newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, the rate of fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers is still highest among those ages 45 to 54, with the fastest increase in deaths over the past decade among those 55 to 64. In 2011, …

The Essential Philip Seymour Hoffman

When I glanced at my e-mail alerts on Sunday and saw that Philip Seymour Hoffman, arguably the greatest film actor of his generation, had died of a probable drug overdose, I felt the same mix of sadness and anger that came over me when Whitney Houston died. Again, a performer taken way too soon… again a drug death preceded by reports that the artist was “clean and sober”…again that empty feeling of a creative resume half-filled, never to be completed. …

Too Many Pills: Are We Over-Medicated As We Age?

How many pills do you take a day? Five? Six? More? More than 40 percent of Americans age 65 and older take five medications a day, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and each year more than a third will suffer an adverse side effect as a result. New York Times health writer Jane Brody recently wrote about the disastrous effects of over-medication on her 92-year-old aunt, who was taking seven prescription …