Humboldt’s ‘Deaths of Despair’ Are Three Times California’s

Statue of Death from the Cathedral of Trier in Trier, Germany [Uncredited photo from Wikicommons]

Humboldt County consistently ranks among the highest in California for the number of suicides as well as drug and alcohol-related deaths.

On the 31st of May, Southern Humboldt Unified School District’s Family Resource Center (FRC) hosted a Mental Health Town Hall at their place behind the Redway Elementary School.

The keynote speaker, Ron Largusa of the Humboldt County Health Department, gave an overview of what he calls the “Deaths of Despair” that occur in Humboldt County. Largusa is an epidemiologist for the Health Department and as such, Largusa said he looks at every Death Certificate recorded in the County of Humboldt. The ‘Deaths of Despair’ Largusa described include drug and alcohol-related deaths as well as suicides. Largusa’s statistics sketch a very troubling picture in Humboldt County relative to the rest of California and the nation. He says Humboldt County’s Deaths of Despair rates “have been triple that of the State of California for well over a decade.”


The County’s suicide rate ranks among the top ten in the state and has for most of a decade. Suicide numbers dropped significantly in 2017 but only for middle-aged adults, and Largusa said Humboldt County’s suicide rate has already rebounded in 2018. Largusa finds that 90% of all suicides in Humboldt County are accomplished through gunshot, hanging, and overdose. And because men tend to choose firearms most frequently, men tend to account for about 75% of suicide deaths per year, according to Largusa.


Largusa said that it isn’t possible to predict who will commit suicide in a community, but that the science shows that “access to lethal means and that mostly means firearms, during a short-term mental crisis” is a significant factor in suicide deaths.


In drug overdose deaths, Humboldt County’s rates are in the deepest red division nationwide. The death rate for overdose in the United States as a whole is 16.3, in California it is 11.8 and in Humboldt County, it is 24.7.

According to California Public Health Department data, Humboldt County had the second highest rate of overdose deaths in California’s 58 counties for the period 2014 to 2016.


Largusa’s statistics looked at drug-related deaths from a number of perspectives. One slide showed that between 2012 and 2016, 180 people in Humboldt County died from a drug or alcohol overdose. Of those deaths, 54% involved opiates in some form while 27% involved methamphetamine. (41% of the 180 deaths involved multiple drugs, so there’s some overlap in those numbers)

Furthermore, in Humboldt County, Methamphetamine deaths have been skyrocketing. In 2012, 22 people died from deaths involving methamphetamine, climbing steadily to 39 in 2016; although 2014 did see a drop to 18. Nonetheless, Humboldt County experienced a 77% increase in methamphetamine-related deaths over the four years.


Statistics are represented in deaths per hundred thousand residents which can be problematic in terms of comparison to other places because Humboldt County’s population is only about 135,000 residents. This means every three deaths moves the statistic two points. For example, 2,200 people died from an overdose in Los Angeles County in 2016, but with a population of over ten million, the rate was around 7 per hundred thousand. Whereas in Humboldt county, 132 people died from an overdose in 2016, the overdose rate was 33 per hundred thousand.

While comparing regions of high to low population by deaths per hundred thousand is challenging, comparing deaths by cause illustrates the extreme morbidity of Humboldt County’s overdose rate more clearly. Between 2012 and 2016, according to Largusa, a total of 372 people died in Humboldt County. Nearly half (47%) of them died of an overdose while 17% died of heart disease. By comparison, data available online for Los Angeles County in 2012 shows the leading cause of death was heart disease at a rate of 115 per hundred thousand and drug overdose was not even among the top ten causes of death.

Largusa points out there are big differences by zip code around the county in the death rates. Eureka’s 95501 zip code, Hoopa and Myers Flat all have a drug-related death rate of over 65 per hundred thousand, where Arcata, McKinleyville, and Fortuna are below 40 per hundred thousand.

The group of 16 people gathered at the Mental Health Town Hall meeting spent some time pondering why the “Deaths of Despair” in Humboldt County might be so high. Largusa asked rhetorically, “Is this merely a high tax for the opportunity to live here?”


Largusa spoke about the impacts of “cumulative disadvantages.” For example, in addition to lower income and fewer educational opportunities in the rural county, pregnant women in Humboldt County are four times more likely than the state average to have a substance abuse issue. And 50% more women in Humboldt County experience domestic violence.

Furthermore, one in three adults in Humboldt County had four or more “adverse childhood experiences” which correlates statistically to adults with higher rates of injury, suicide drug addiction, but also to higher rates of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Examples of Adverse Childhood Experiences include the death or incarceration of a parent, homelessness, witnessing or being a victim of violence.

When searching for solutions, Largusa said that the scale of Humboldt County’s problem is large and that we must seek solutions that match the scale of the problem. “This problem that we face in the County is so huge, the solutions that it will take to fix it have to be equally as large.”

Largusa advocates for, and says Humboldt County is on track, to convene a suicide and drug mortality review panel. The panel will review every death and look deeper into the lives of people who die in these categories to discern patterns that may lead to meaningful solutions to prevent future Deaths of Despair.

Largusa hopes Humboldt County will soon have medically assisted drug treatment services to help reduce the drug overdose rate. A company called Aegis is seeking a site to have such a clinic. Regarding the occasional community outcry against needle exchange programs, Largusa compared blaming addiction on needle exchange programs to blaming alcoholism on whiskey bottles. He said that syringes have become “stigmatized containers,” and reassured the public that there has never been a documented case of Hepatitis or HIV being contracted via syringe litter.

Largusa said that the county is like a large ocean-going vessel and will take time to change direction.



  • Sad, but really good, introspective article. Thanks, Kym.

  • Yet for all these things, Humboldt Co is in love with its drug culture. In fact revels in it. Attached to it is the idea that jobs are not as important as welfare, that others are responsible for taking care of society. That the world owed you no matter what you do.

    Everyone pretty much has moments of despair and trauma. What is needed are the beliefs in yourself that carry you through them, in the sacredness of your obligations to society, family, and yourself. This means what you owe others, not what they owe you. If all you focus on is what you are owed, then every failure in meeting your needs is compounded by the feeling that you are betrayed. If, on the other hand, you feel you owe society something, it is one more incentive to get through a crisis. Then you might seem what help you need to keep those obligations. And a job is the most common way to fulfil sense of obligation for all its hardships. That is certainly what the author if this article is doing for himself. He might think to try to obtain the same opportunity for everyone.

    This writer is big on the need to have society swoop in and fix the problems. But it is that very idea itself that creates dependency and all its accompanying insecurities. It excuses violence by blaming society then wants society to stop it. It’s schizophrenic and unreliable. Unlike those who despair over the inevitable failure of society’s intervention to save someone, I despair that people offer this fantasy as if it could actually wrap people in bubble wrap and keep them from hurting themselves. It is better by far to instill responsibility than dependency for mental health.

    • Veteran's friend

      You are big on criticism and very very small on compassion.
      Your lack of understanding is pretty sad.

      • I’m big on solutions and less on making myself look compassionate by echoing words sympathizing with ever widening ripples of failure. I think compassion is better represented by success than by group kvetching. It’s harder but worth it. Don’t you think failure needs some criticism in order to stop repeating failure?

        BTW compassion is not well represented by insulting people who post. You may consider that I am showing compassion in my reply.

        • Veteran's friend

          You are very amusing, and I do not mean that as a compliment.

        • I heard agriculture program wants to stop subsidizing soya,corn,and big agricultural in favor of local food.big agricultural supports junk food and cattle producers.bad food causes depression and loss of about another 100 years of wars for rich men and I’m depressed again too.and endrocrine disrupters and school bullying?

          • Rich men always have more sway but only because other men can be bought. And the poorer the other men, the cheaper they are bought. Generally complaining about that is like a thief complaining that the house he robbed did not have good enough plunder. It may be true but it’s a ridiculously useless point.

            Now arguing for more integrity takes care of both the purchaser of men and the men he wants to purchase. However it’s a two edged sword that because most of us are so eager to be bought.

            • I’m so glad to know you are out there, Guest 8:22/12:37/9:22.

              People like you are Humboldt’s only hope. But the problem of self-centered entitlement is not larger in Humboldt than in the rest of America. Look who the country elected to “lead” it.

      • I agree.

      • Facts don’t care about your feelings

      • Well, you just did your part, belittling the poster instead of addressing his/her comments. How virtuous you are.

    • Damn, well said.

      Damn well said!

      I concur.

    • This isint anything new….old news. “Green ghetto “

    • I also agree with “Guest”

    • You make some pretty sweeping claims about “this writer.” Are you sure you know this person?

      • Only what they wrote- looking for the same old solutions in all the wrong places. And even worse, refusing to look at failure in some of the right places.

        If you believe that income causes lack of education and drug use, then why are the things that create income- good jobs- never listed as part of the solutions?

        • I’m the writer. I wasn’t looking for solutions. I reported on what a person with a career in the topic came and told a group of people at a meeting.
          I’ll will add one thing I didn’t include: he wasn’t quoting therapists or other do gooders. He spent a lot of time basing his thoughts on a couple of economists. For what that’s worth.

          • Let me clarify. As a person I absolutely want solutions to these problems. And I happen to agree that a strong economy and jobs are very good for tools for solving these problems.
            But… I was saying above that in this report, I reported. And it was mostly a review of the Problem. The solution remains nebulous. We seem to be still searching for the right set of solutions.

            • The most usual reason for failure is an absolute refusal to do what is necessary for success. It’s like having a clean and orderly home. I want that. I see how much healthier it is and how much it reduces stress. But I don’t want to do housework.

              The solution is simple enough. It is unpalatable though. And it takes a whole bunch of little objectionable steps to get there. It will never be perfect but then the constant clamoring for perfection is the surest way to keep any good from happening.

              The idea the government will form a committee and examine the facts in depth will at best create some internal government reforms, lots of controversy and opposition. And I can guarantee that the results they find will involve more government spending for itself and zero guarantees. It’s as if they see their previous failures as proving they need more of everything. It will inevitably not want to carve spending away from what it already has and does to redirect elsewhere to implement its findings. That is what a bureaucracy does. That is why it is a horrible drag. It can not tolerate not having control of things that are beyond its control.

              Now if they spent time finding programs that had been successful to adjust themselves and build on that, there might be some hope. Examining lives- how silly. As if putting together stats about suicides will tell them much if they continue to screen them through their self interest.

              • My point to you is simply that I am not the person to direct your opinion toward. I am the writer of a report, not the repository of the education, experience, and underlying information.
                The County’s employee gave a talk. I reported to you what he said.
                My thinking on the matter is not included in the report.

                • True. I guess that I have come to believe that what is reported is highly selected in the press to support agendas. And so conflate authors with those opinions in the report. It would be less likely of a mistake if there was a diversity of opinion given uniformly as appropriate but then reporters tend not to do that. As Kym would say “This is my site. If you don’t like it, write your own.” But then there’s no commercial value in a site like that.

                • There is not a whole lot of commercial value in my site and I worked for zero dollars for almost five years. I do it because I believe in it. If you want help, I’ll pass on what I know.

                • Kym, it is no surprise that any new business goes through a period where profits are negligible. Most start ups do not leap into profitability. They might be sold for a profit but rarely make one right away.

                  However no business that needs the public can ever be profitable without an agenda that carves out it’s market. Offending everyone sooner or later, readership has lots of opportunity to seek other places. And a place that reports on all sides will offend all sides sooner or later.

                  No need to take it personally. It’s just the way it is in a world where there is plenty of choice. For good or evil. I’m sure that there will follow the usual posts of support momentarily.

                • I wasn’t taking your comments personally. I was offering to help you set up a website. You are articulate and intelligent. Having your worldview represented is good for the community. I’m willing to spend a little of my time to support that.

                • My windmill tilting days are over. The horse died, the lance is dull and I keep seeing windmills instead of giants. I’m strictly a Pancho.

    • well said, the drug culture in this area is prized and put on a pedastool by many sources including the local media.

    • Many sides to the coin

      Drugs are pretty much romanticized around the world.
      What are the best known movies?
      Scarface and the Godfather.
      People do drugs to escape reality. If reality were better and provided community&jobs with real living wages more people wouldnt want to escape.

      That goes for suicide too.
      Obviously guest has never had a medical ailment causing constant pain that no insurance covers treatment for and cant hold a full time job and cant afford rent, food, clothes,etc. Or lost your entire way of life for generations on a farm for instance, & a big company comes inand forces your hand to the point youhave to sell them your farm and work for them for barely enough to eat. Suicide rates around the world are highest for farmers. Yes good health care that actually heals people and good jobs would help. But we dont have that.
      These are the things that land folks on the street which of course makes most folks go insane.
      Hate to say it guest but your lack of understanding will most likely result in someone close to you getting a debilitating mental illness that will force you to recognize how real it is. Most folks with mental illness dont want a societal blanket they want to be functioning members of society.
      Tho i do think if people want to die then let them. Sometimes giving them the permission makes them not want to.
      Who am i to say that someone in agony in their physical and/or emitional body doesnt have the right to go if they want? I struggle with that, the friends i had who killed themselves were in utter agony, tried to get better& were just self medicating/slow suicide with alcohol.

      • That would be me. My beliefs come from a struggle to overcome my own problems which at one point were bad. Very bad. I was offered the opportunity to “recover” by stopping work. And the most valuable advice I got from a medical source was do something, even if you don’t feel like it. To this day I am grateful for that advice. I think I would be dead not if I had not taken it although it caused complications at the time.

        As for good jobs, there is no reason that we can’t have work. There are unlimited things that need doing. It is not necessary that they pay even a comfortable living. A living, yes but what is really need that the work is honored by society and the people who work are respected. This gives self respect and satisfaction when it seems like the rest of life doesn’t. It is possible to get a source of satisfaction from work of many kinds. Maybe not what I would choose for myself but it’s not all about me. It’s all about doing what the individual finds important. A sense of contributing is worth it’s weight in gold.

        This is not a panacea. There are people who will never be capable of regular work. But it does give a lot more people a chance at finding their own happiness than endless dwelling on how deprived they are.

        Oh- and yes I had a condition that involved a large amount of pain and, while I had some medical insurance, I was told their was nothing that could be done so nothing was done. Thank goodness for work again as it made me keep doing, even with pain, a cane, exhaustion and numerous falls. I had to keep going because people depended on me. Eventually, after some years, I lucked out in finding a doctor who did do something and it lead to an actual cure. That I kept working saved me again I suppose although I never thought of it that way before now.

      • Veteran's friend

        In cultures where drugs are respected for their inherent properties and not criminalized these attitudes are nonexistant.
        The criminalization of drugs is motivated by profit, and a need to control free people.
        A selfsustaining moneymaker for police, courts, attornys, prison builders & operators and low wage job providers.

        • Don’t forget drug dealers.

          • And whores.girls are trained with meth,as dogs are with treats.sold,starting at 12,10 times a night,for $5 /30 minutes.some are sent to us.they prefer us.even police and soldiers,businessmen.common.very disease spreading.syphlis was transmitted via destroy top,Alcoholics Anonymous to grammar school children,lesions on forearms of deportees.meth is called coca,even by government.police buy girls.for this men moderate dose so as not to destroy merchandise.

        • Arsenic exists in nature. Hemlock, oleander, toxic algae, venom, botulism, etc, etc , etc. Being natural is not the same as good for you. Heck, even too much water, that most necessary of chemicals, can kill if taken to excess. Using “natural” as a measure of good is simply useless.

          One of the problems with the most beloved of intoxicants is that they impair thinking so that the dangers and problems of intoxication ignored.

    • Whatever you are calling “drug culture” sounds like it has little to nothing to do with the culture surrounding cannabis.

    • Yeah right, unregulated free market capitalism based on resource extraction will save us from despair.

      • If that is what you think work is… Well I guess you are limited by that view to thinking only a few activities qualify as work.

      • Veteran's friend

        Farming is not resource extraction. If you find it so, you are doing it wrong😊

    • Well said Guest.

    • Suzanne Morgan

      I agree. Self-reliance is for the long term a better remedy.

  • Well I’ll outline law enforcement’s roll in a pending “death of despair”. A friend on drugs is trying to get clean. The Harpy who he snuggled up with while deep in addiction refuses to leave his life; beating him, pleading, always bringing more drugs she knows as a struggling addict, he can’t refuse 100% of the time.

    He has a restraining order against her. Calls on it intermittently when it gets too much. When he does she physically assaults him, then quickly returns with drugs to placate him as he sinks even deeper into Stockholm Syndrome and despair.

    The she-demon loves him to pieces; literally and won’t leave even though she knows he wants her gone. So she brings the drugs and knows he’ll never leave “her”. She has a warrant out for her arrest and they won’t bring her in because the deputies told him “it’s up to you to drive her away”. But it isn’t her, it’s the drugs she has that he can’t “drive away”. He’ll never get access to recovery, being literally in a psychological prison cell. His family was recently and sadly discussing setting aside money from the Trust for his funeral which all believe is imminent.

    People who know him have watched him slide down down down this nightmarish hill over the last couple of years. He went from having a trade and self esteem to a shell of a human, indigent, begging for loans, food, any type of assistance that people don’t want to give him because they know how it will convert: to drugs. And he tried so hard last year to pull out of the nosedive. But the Harpy returns again and again like a boomerang, with a warrant. And no assistance is given via the ignorance on behalf of law enforcement about the actual dynamics of the situation. As his sister put it when I insisted it’s the Harpy; she said “no, it’s the drugs”. And I changed my perspective on it.

    This is why I’ve been stumping since for awhile about our lawmakers drawing up a Bill that punishes people who bring drugs to known addicts newly ordered into recovery. There is an insidious dynamic that I’ve been learning about watching the shows on drug addiction on the boob tube. It always seems to involve a couple or a couple of close friends who have this deeply interwoven addiction to each other in the ritual of the drug chase, acquisition, preparation injection and stupor that follows. Like a cult-mentality complete with deep ritual and camaraderie that ALL MUST BE ADDRESSED in newly-recovering addicts. The “drug family” will eat into the lives of those who want to escape, the families who are devastated by relapse and society that will pump $billions into recovery programs only to see them fail by one pernicious drug-family member who knows how to keep their old buddy around….

    There needs to be harsh penalties for people who are found under the influence of or in possession of narcotics around a newly-recovering court-ordered addict. Very harsh. Like work-camp and stuff that addicts just freakin’ hate to do. Or, we can just get used to relapse, ensuing despair and suicides. Last month a friend of mine had a wake for a situation exactly like the guy I write about. He had gotten rid of the drug-girlfriend and gotten sober for several months. In a weak moment she returned and he let her in, with the drugs… His body wasn’t used to the usual dose and when he shot up again, he never woke up. Thanks ex-girlfriend for knowing just how to get that man of yours back into your life!

    • The choice is to either for him to remove himself from the presence of drugs or remove everyone else. Which do you think is likely to be doable? And likely to work? That is why all the programs in the world fail to be effective with those not desperately committed to them, as you pointed out. But a court order for saving recovering drug addicts? Why not the same for all offering drugs? But that already exists and has become an endless round of chasing down rats only to have more rats take their place.

      The grief for your friend is understandable. And heartrending. But unless you want to imprison him against his will in a drug free place (probably forever), all you can do is wait for him to muster the will to cut himself off. Anything you do that might keep him from drugs is going to drive him away from you til then. Your friend’s sister is right- it’s the drugs. And you’re right too- he would be better if his supply was cut off. It’s just not possible in this drug ridden world.

      • No, that’s not how the Bill should be written. He is free to associate as he sees fit. It’s THE OTHER PEOPLE approaching him with drugs that will be on pins and needles. It serves as a deterrent, not an absolute. And you know that’s how we write criminal laws, right? To deter?

        The discussions have gone round and round about “the choice to remove oneself from drugs”. I assure you, he DID choose to remove himself from drugs; again and again. But if you were even vaguely familiar with addiction recovery, to be forcibly enticed with the drug as you are just beginning to get clean is the same as having no choice at all.

        Once when she was in jail and due to get out, I found him freaking out at his house at night, barricading the windows and his door. He said “she just got out of jail again, I’ve got to be sure she can’t get back in”. Another jail term he (dangerously) went through withdrawel on his own, trying to get clean. The second they let her out of jail, her buddy in crime brought her straight back to his house and he was using by the end of that week.

        When someone is actively trying to undermine a newly-recovering addict there is no choice involved. If you don’t believe me, talk to an expert in drug recovery and get back to us, OK? Meanwhile I’ll keep sewing that black dress and veil I’ll have to wear at the pending family ceremony for him. And that goes for any of you who have addicts trying to get clean whose “drug family” will not have their ritual-buddy ripped away from them.

        • Please read more carefully. I said that until he does have the will to choose, to do what he has to do even to moving to a place where she is not, you can not do it for them. Illegal drugs are already illegal. Relying on a device that has a long history of failure is not going to deter anyone.

          If a woman can not get a murderous stalker arrested to keep him away to protect her life, it is not reasonable that a drug addict can keep everyone with drugs from him using the law. You might get a law passed but it will be no more effective in creating a wall of protection. Even smoking bans require that the smoker be slathered with guilt first and the majority is willing to be offensive to any smoking. That is not the politically correct thinking at this time about drugs.

          • Look, the Harpy is murderous. She beat him to a brain injury last year, documented and reported to Sheriffs and medical staff, witnessed by about a two dozen people. This year she stabbed him and he almost died of sepsis, then almost had to have the leg amputated. He hid the wound because in his eyes “they won’t do anything and she’ll just come back and do worse”.

            His attempts to get sober last year are well witnessed. Many people checked in on him when he was trying to detox to make sure he didn’t die of those symptoms. We plead with him to go and do it at the hospital. To no avail. Dozens and dozens of people have heard him say and seen him trying to get clean only to relapse the second she comes back with the goods and the fear-factor on assault.

            Plus, did I mention she has an active warrant out for her arrest; this time to do real time? And is a suspected person in a recent robbery in the town she stalks? This is going to be a case of negligent homicide. The Sheriff’s know how to deal with this situation where he can make the choice and stick with it through the early-failure stages of recovery WITHOUT the Harpy making sure that he will never leave….”her” (the drugs). They know. They’re on notice. Beyond that the family and I can do no more than sit and wait for the inevitable.

            • This is a very dangerous situation. Often the best way out of a domestic violence situation is to move and disappear. It is not fair, but women do it all the time to escape abusers. Especially when the abuser is disenfranchised from civil society, they are much more dangerous. I hope he makes it.

            • I do hope that he succeeds.

            • That’s a very sad story.

    • When someone says “I love you?” Ask why…. you will be stumped by the answer if they are in it for themselves.

    • Cristal is destructive in a setting that encourages females to take as much as they can.

    • Eye opening. Thanks.

    • Here are some quick notes from that which basically covers data from 2014-2016:

      Humboldt is te highest county in deaths per 100,000 for cerebral vascular disease
      2nd highest for drug-induced deaths
      7th highest for deaths from all causes, deaths from all cancers, and deaths from prostate cancer
      8th highest for suicide and homicide
      9th highest for liver disease and firearm-related deaths
      10th highest for infant mortality

      • when one comes to humboldt county, the first observation is poverty and delapidation.. closer examination reveals the drugs. the economy here is govt., drugs,and services,followed by timber, cattle,and commercial fishing,which are severely diminished industries. this is a reversal of the way it was before the hippies discovered it circa 1970. its been downhill from there.without the marijuana industry,there wouldnt be the attraction for misfits,nor the environmental degradation. Its very sad to see.many of the productive people have left.the local traditions have all but disappeared.the rivers ,once full of fish, are deserts. they are the primary indicator the area is out of balance.i applaud the friends of the eel and the tribes for their restorative actions, even though they are futile. i am disturbed by the govts. delusion they can regulate and profit from an inherently bad product, and by the movement to lesson penalties for drugs.but in the end, it is the lack of cohesive family units and the values of community that is the real problem.i dont have the answer for that.thats a problem most of america is facing,and its a big one.

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    Humboldt is a tough environment, and not exactly filled up with folks who desire outsiders to fix anything. Academics may wring their hands and decry the craziness, but Humboldt folks accept death by misadventure and overdose as if it were routine.

    If you can’t get what you need in Humboldt, you may have to leave. If you want to get clean, try St Helena Hospital, Duffy’s Napa, or others in SF and beyond.

    Clean and sober takes the rest of your life, hang in there!

    “I come and go like a comet, we are wanderers, are you any more?”
    Grace Slick, Paul Kantner

    • Yes. They do. As do a certain percentage who think everyone lives the same way. And unfortunately that is becoming a self fulfilling belief.

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    Not everyone should live in Humboldt.

    People come from all over to be on drugs, deal drugs, glorify intoxication in all it’s forms.

    Until being a druggie, getting messed up, living the pirate lifestyle, becomes less popular, these issues will remain all over Northern CA, Oregon, and beyond.

    There are alternatives, but the glorification of Weed, Meth, Smack, DMT, Ecstasy needs to be toned down. Starting with the schools is one plan, but we need to have some effect on the culture itself.

    Putting folks in jail, does not work. Prohibition, does not work.

    If people want to kill themselves with drugs, can we stop them? Should we?

    Calling it “despair” is disingenuous, it’s more like “death by choice” in many cases.

    The real end result of addiction is either death, or sobriety.

  • Stop treating drugs as acceptable. We fucking have news articles announcing every new source of alcohol or legal marijuana in the county. Using drugs needs to be something your friends frown on and shun you for, not the thing cool kids do, and not something that’s advertised as a good thing when there’s more of it. Same goes for addicts of other drugs – rather than being told they’re doing something bad and forcing them to stop, we tell them it’s perfectly OK, it’s not your fault, and here, have some free needles and a free house and free clothes so you never have to change your ways. As long as society keeps treating drug use as a non-problem, it will keep being a problem.

    • Well said Bushytails.
      Every kid should have to sign a self responsibility agreement when graduating high school that acknowledges that they alone will be responsible for their lives from this day on and that nobody will bail them out if they choose to screw up their lives with drugs.
      Help is for those who help themselves, not for those who destroy themselves.

  • “Suicide rates increased significantly in almost every state from 1999 through 2016, with nearly 45,000 people taking their own lives in 2016 alone, according to a report released Thursday.” this is the headline in the Boston Globe 15hrs ago. again Humboldt only has 130,000 people in it. when you use stats for 100,000 our data becomes meaningless. our problem is related to a lack of proper education. we need to focus on the youth.

    • I think part of our problems come from thinking that having a formal education makes a person better than someone who doesn’t. One of the most charming, clever and understanding men I ever knew was a school maintenance man. Boy what that man knew. He was just differently educated. And free to think freely.

      Ambition to earn more, order people around or have social cache does not equate to intellectual superiority. I want a medical doctor to have been put through the education wringer but frankly I suspect plumbers have saved more lives than MDs.

      • local observer

        there is no way forward without a path to take your there. a formal education includes tech, vocational, and liberal. we aren’t big enough to have a tech but it is what we need. plumbers make good money and love to power trip and order their underlings around and make them feel stupid, so try to have some perspective.

        • Of course many people, in fact many of the best of people, carve their own paths to a goal not seen by most.

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    Drug use is almost as old as the human race. Is it a problem, or is it just the way we are?

    Accept yourself, your limitations. Own the beauty of your existence. The chances of you existing at all are quite slim, after all.

    Life is short, enjoy it clean and sober.

    • Veteran's friend

      Actually, older and extends into the animal kingdom…as anyone who has ever seen a robin drunk on fermented pyracantha berries can attest.
      Drugs are just drugs. Prohibition creates criminals. Abuse exists. The potential for abuse is everywhere. In love, in food, in screens….😕

  • Do you think it’s the weather.

    • Taurus Ballzhoff

      Yes. The weather makes people want to die.

      Hmmm. The weather…. That’s it.

      Demasiado dramatismo…

      • JustWantToHeartheEndoftheStory

        I moved back here after tiring of incessant SoCal sunshine. No suicidal tendencies have emerged in my psyche due to fog and rain. What I do note is the worship of “alternative consciousness”, aka drugs. Any kind, any time. In the mix are the good hearted but clueless “activists” who, by reducing harm, encourage the self destructive behavior to continue. The constant chant to legalize everything is just ignoring the other problems. If legalization is the answer, why aren’t we seeing a reduction in harm since “medicinal marijuana” was sold to the electorate. When someone dies of their own hand, or by using drugs, there is always a chorus crying out for more money for mental health, blaming the justice system, or the schools, or Trump, anything to avoid looking their own life choices.

        • Veteran's friend

          Actually, we are. Where cannabis is legal opiod use declines.

          • I’ve seen that statement before. I haven’t really questioned it too deeply, but in light of marijuana having been pretty socially acceptable in Humboldt my entire adult life… which is a pretty long time… meanwhile, it turns out, Humboldt has this huge opioid problem…one has to look again.
            It’s time to find where that statement came from and scrutinize its accuracy.

              • Thanks for the link. Studies in the journal of American medical association certainly qualify as reputable.

                I sincerely hope someone takes such an objective look at Humboldt county. This is a very serious situation we face.

                • Care needs to be taken in using a study like this to make sweeping statements about pot. The NPR article way overstated what the study was and what it meant. It did nothing of the kind of thing that the article stated.

                  The study counted Medicare funded precriptions for opiods covering a period when some states legalized medical pot. That’s it – prescriptions of those on a government program. It found that people who were on government insurance filled less prescriptions in places where pot was legally available. It addressed only people who already had a condition that their doctors felt needed pain relief.

                  But the clearest fault in using this as a fact supporting the benefits of pot in reducing abuse is that it doesn’t even address people who take drugs recreationally. Nor can it be assumed that the people who are addicted switched to pot. Nor can it be assumed that less prescriptions filled means less addicts. It is probably a sure thing that addicts did not as pot would not give them what they wanted. The people who wanted an alternative (which is not something that this study can say) are people not addicted, not abusing in the first place. Probably people so not addicted, they were searching for an alternative to something they disliked.

                  Another thing to contemplate is that there is no great advantage in pot if the result is to make many times more pot users while reducing a few opioid users.

                  And then there’s the fact that only JAMA subscribers can read the details of the study so evaluating it’s defects are impossible. And there are always defects, some so sizable as to make studies useless. Certainly just on the surface, the NPR interpretation was defective.


          • Taurus Ballzhoff

            Cannabis is nothing but a gateway drug.

            Calling it “medicine” is totally ridiculous!

            The black-tar seizures this year are much larger.

            Go work in healthcare, before making claims like the one above. See the patients, dead on the table in the ER. Dying in the wards.

            It’s pretty traumatic to see a 15 year old woman dead from aspiration and drug overdose.

            Might change your opinion a little…


    The “Culls” of society have been flocking to Humboldt for years “Humboldt” is world famous for it’s pot. It’s only reason we have the despair here more than other places. The people that make up more of the populous here are the culls from other states centrally located here for the drugs

    • yet we see long time locals filling the mugshots. if you would like to actually learn something about our community I recommend you flip thru the 1,176 FB friends on the woman that just got busted with a lb of meth. but I suspect you already know and just like to blame. the same problem exist where I grew up and sure enough most like to blame outsiders which is also fictional for that location.


        Wow, I was not looking for someone to attach themselves to me giving me better instruction, I was simply stating facts since I have been born and raised here. You could say that I am the guy in the trenches in the battle zone. The only difference with me is that “Pot” was not what brought my family to Humboldt. HSU brought my family here in the 1970’s because they offered the best Oceanographic studies program available in the United States. Maybe I have been too stupid to leave here, but I kind of like living among the mentally challenged.

  • My belief is that a big part of our addictive culture is the lg number of kids beaten, neglected or molested. I spent 2 years trying to get the county or state to remove a child from the house of a convicted “child rapist”, not molester but rapist. He hooked her mother on meth. He is a meth dealer. The grandmother vouched for him. The last time I saw the child she was laying in the street saying she wanted to be run over. I am very glad Downey is gone and have hope that Honsal will protect the next generation.

  • JustWantToHeartheEndoftheStory

    Another thought. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Rich, educated, great careers, have access to any sort of treatment for addiction and/or psychological problems, but they chose suicide. As did Lark L’Wren and Alexander McQueen. Any thoughts on why from the jury out there? I doubt it was the weather.

    • Rumors have it that Spade was involved in pedo rings and that Bourdain’s GF went on stage and announced she was going to testify against Weinstein’s raping her, which puts his death in a questionable stance. It may not have been suicide. Just because a person is rich or famous or both, doesn’t mean they choose the right paths at all the right times.

      • JustWantToHeartheEndoftheStory

        Asia Argento accused Weinstein months ago, and Bourdain was her most vocal supporter. Second, Kate Spade and pedophilia? where did that come from? And you missed my point, rich and famous have problems too, but the typical excuses, ie, no access to psych services, no access to rehab, no hope of a better life, ad nauseum, don’t apply to those who can have anything they want when they want it. Question is, why don’t they wish to continue living?

        • Yep, Boudain was a strong anti-pedo person.
          As far as the rumors go, all across the net people keep track of connections between crimes and alleges of crimes. Here’s one out of millions out there. If you’re interested in the connections, you’d have to do your own diligent research and see what you come up with.
          As to the second part, like I said, no matter the status of the person, people don’t always make the right choices at the right times.

        • The problem comes from believing that the pain, whatever it is, physical, situational or psychological, will never end and that the only way to end it is to end living. Soon everything revolves around this fear so that it taints what gave pleasure in the past and even doing what was once pleasing that feeds the pain. It’s an ugly place and, if a cure is to be found, it needs time and effort and faith that getting out is possible.

  • Strange that this article appears when the hallways are filled with rumors about the expected upcoming suicide week due to the OIG report & other important happenings being unfolded next week.
    Prayers for all who have suffered in the hands of others.

    • Don’t think of it as a conspiracy as much as a herd reaction. Sort of like a Black Friday sale where many people rush to the store for bargains. The store may advertise and want people to do it but there is no conspiracy to have this mob hijacked for other nefarious puposes. It’s like Freud was reputed to say- sometimes a cigar is only a cigar.

  • Must be my age, but I can’t help thinking that some of this is because there are people in Humboldt who remember how it was to live there thirty years ago. 🙁

    • And a lot of people our age predicted what is happening now. We were shouted down and laughed at, of course.

  • For the first time in decades, we finally have a life to look forward to. There are job openings in every state, more tax cuts incoming, the right to try meds bill passed, Veterans can seek medical help anywhere, Prescription med prices will lower to normal costs, and so much more. This is the year to get clean, learn or hone a new skill, get your visa’s if that’s what you need, move to a state that doesn’t steal all your money if Calif doesn’t get her act together, and be set and ready for next year’s abundance. This is the time to get out there and pass the word along to those who’ve despaired and given up all hope of a future. A real future.

    • Very true.

      • It’s so exciting! I hope word gets out to those who need the boost back into life.
        As an aside, I hear they might take mj off the federal list finally. This brings the decisions about it back into the states powers where it belongs. More states will allow mmj, others won’t, but it frees up the areas to move to or stay away from, whichever.

  • And it’s only starting to get worse. We are dealing with a population here that is largely living with undiagnosed mental conditions. Functioning only because lots of large profits were to be made on the green rush of weed money. Now that is disappearing rapidly. Expect many stresses and suicides to happen in the near future. It will not be pretty. Enjoy your “legalization” and your “safety” all you “legitimate farmers”.

  • There is an extreme shortage of competent mental health professionals in Humboldt County. The more experienced ones that remain are booked solid, and many from the younger wave seem to have missed the classes on crises. I’m aware of incidents when someone experiencing a crisis has been shrugged off or ignored by their therapist and ended up taking his life. It has happened more than once.

    • That was happening 30 years ago. No therapist can be available 24/7 anywhere but here there are few alternatives. And the ones here are overworked.

      The question to ask is why so many professionals of all sorts (except lawyers) do not want to come or, if persuaded to come, don’t want to stay. Partly it’s a largely publicly funded population with relatively low reimbursement. But largely it’s the social chaos fueled by drugs and mental illness. Professionals want a place that is safe and pleasant to raise families. They come to look sometimes only to turn around and look elsewhere.


    This “Guest” sounds like a much smarter person than the dummies in public office who want us all working in weed tourism. Thank you

  • In us second leading cause of death of teens 15-19.latina girls(endrocrine disruption?) 10-16 ,300% increase in suicide attempts and completed also ,many of our actors and role models too.

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