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.
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.
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.
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.
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