Drug overdoses fueling midlife suicide rate

It's critically important that those suffering from addiction

It's critically important that those suffering from addiction become aware of treatment, which includes medication to treat withdrawal symptoms and cravings.(Nov. 5, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Ellis Henican

Newsday columnist Ellis Henican Ellis Henican

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. He also is a

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Is middle age really so awful? For a growing number of baby boomers, the answer seems to be yes.

The midlife suicide rate is skyrocketing -- up 30 percent in a decade, now surpassing even the numbers killed in car wrecks. According to the CDC, the suicide rise has been sharpest for men in their 50s and women in their 60s.

So why? Family pressures, career disappointments, social isolation -- clearly, they all play a role. But one factor hasn't gotten nearly the attention it deserves: the overflowing medicine cabinets in people's bathrooms, jammed with painkillers, sleeping pills, anxiety drugs and other prescriptions that can easily be fatal in an overdose.

Never before has it been so easy to end it all. Far too often, those handy medications are the gateway between depression and death.

There is one potential bright spot, a lesson from the New York City Department of Health. The five boroughs have a suicide rate half the national average. It's one-quarter the national average for suicide by gunshot.

I don't have the parallel numbers for Long Island, but I'll bet they're not too different, and the reason is the same.

Our strict gun laws mean far fewer people have firearms in their homes. When the hour is darkest, there is no loaded gun to raise.

The clouds lift. The moment passes. A life is saved. Now if only we can find a way to empty those medicine chests.

LIFELINE

1. Call a friend.

2. Say a prayer.

3. Go outside.

4. Get therapy.

5. Please just wait.ASKED AND UNANSWERED: They don't allow smoking at Westhampton Beach's Seafield Center rehab? Come on, how many addictions is Lindsay supposed to kick at once? . . . Is Club Avanti in Westbury (a) a "Latin dance club," as some ads say, or (b) a swinging-couples' party spot? Mayor Peter Cavallaro is firmly in the (b) camp -- and he's in no party mood . . . Sixty recycled bikes are on their way from Hicksville to Ghana? Don't those Returning Peace Corps Volunteers of Long Island ever get tired of doing good? . . . They're not Zegnas or Brionis? So what did East Hampton Supervisor Bill Wilkinson expect? That employees of his stylish town would all jump at the chance to wear uniform logo-ed jackets? . . . Suffolk County has the worst ozone air pollution in New York State? Did testers from the American Lung Association really find cleaner air in Buffalo? And the Bronx, too? . . . Did Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow think no one would notice one item in his draft 2013-14 budget? The one mentioning the first-ever compensation package for himself and the village trustees? Folks noticed, package pulled.

THE NEWS IN SONG: And pray to God he hears you: "How to Save a Life," The Fray, tinyurl.com/howtosav

LONG ISLANDERS OF THE WEEK: THE RUNNERS

Immediately after Boston, some people wondered nervously: What about the other big marathons? Would the deadly terror attack scare other runners away? The reaction from the runners prepping for Sunday's RXR Long Island Marathon seems to be a loud and resounding no. Yes, there will be extra security, including State Police. Yes, some of the heightened measures -- bag searches, tighter starting and finish lines -- will cause minor hassles. But no, Long Island's fearless runners are not letting the carnage in Boston paralyze them. Serious runners are a notoriously hardy breed. Pursuing their passion through unfamiliar neighborhoods at odd hours of the day, dressed in tiny shorts and tees -- they don't frighten easily. And they don't look scared today.

Email ellis@henican.com

Follow on Twitter @henican

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