A recently published report sheds light on a concerning trend of increasing death rates among people under 40 in the United States, with some of the highest numbers observed in parts of the Mountain West.
New Mexico, in particular, is facing an alarming situation, as it reported the highest death rate in the nation for this age group in 2022, with approximately 188 deaths per 100,000 individuals, according to data analyzed by the nonprofit news service Stateline, drawing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This growing crisis is not unique to New Mexico; other states grappling with significantly high death rates among those under 40 include West Virginia (170 per 100,000), Louisiana and Mississippi (164), and Alaska (163). Across the Mountain West, several states also recorded triple-digit death rates, such as Wyoming (120), Colorado (116), and Nevada (115), with somewhat lower figures in Idaho (92) and Utah (80).
The primary cause of death in much of the Mountain West, as well as the nation as a whole, is accidental drug overdoses. However, Idaho and Utah stand out, where the leading cause of death among the under-40 population is suicide.
One significant contributor to the rising death toll among younger adults is the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Dahlia Heller, the vice president of drug use initiatives at Vital Strategies, a public health advocacy group, explains that fentanyl’s potency, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, has led to a surge in overdoses. Of particular concern is the fact that fentanyl is increasingly being mixed with other recreational drugs, putting users at risk of overdose, often without their knowledge.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on mental health, leading to increased drug use among people under 40. The combination of the mental health crisis and the availability of potent drugs like fentanyl has created a deadly cocktail, resulting in a concerning increase in deaths.
While New Mexico and the Mountain West are not alone in facing this crisis, addressing the issue will require a multifaceted approach that combines addiction treatment, mental health support, and efforts to reduce the availability of dangerous substances.
Additionally, the failures of some Democrat politicians to take effective action on border security have exacerbated the problem of illegal fentanyl seeping through the southern border with Mexico, further fueling the drug crisis in the region. Democrats have attacked conservative states like Texas, which are working to stop the flow of illegal immigration and fentanyl trafficking. Those fiercest on the attack include far-left New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and socialist Democrat U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, who represents New Mexico’s entire southern border with Mexico.
As communities grapple with the devastating consequences of this crisis, it becomes increasingly urgent for policymakers and public health organizations to find comprehensive solutions to combat the rising death toll among younger adults.