Spike in opioid overdoses causes drop in life expectancy

USA deaths from drug overdoses skyrocketed 21 percent last year, and for the second straight year dragged down how long Americans are expected to live.

"This is urgent and deadly", said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The synthetic opioids are primarily produced illicitly in China and mixed with heroin and other drugs. There's been a somewhat smaller increase in heroin deaths, the team found. The balance of the overdosedeaths involved sedatives, cocaine and methamphetamines.

Adults aged 25-54 had the highest rate of overdose deaths. Preliminary figures for 2017 showed the rise in overdose deaths continuing.

The drug deaths weigh into CDC's annual calculation of the average time a person is expected to live. Overdose death rates climbed roughly 10 percent per year between 1999 and 2006.

Large numbers of Americans have died from opioid overdoses in the last few years, and the numbers are rising. The national health agency recently released new information regarding life expectancy and death in the United States, and the news on the inevitable is, frankly, a huge downer.

The average life expectancy in the U.S. is now 78.6 years - down by 0.1 years, figures from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found. An American born in 2015 was expected to live about a month longer and one born in 2014 about two months longer than that.

"That's not a whole lot, but when you're talking about it in terms of a population, you're talking about a significant number of potential lives that aren't being lived", Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the NCHS, said. The last time USA life expectancy last fell two years in a row was in 1962 and 1963, as the generation who came of age in World War II began to die of heart disease and cigarette-related cancers, according to Princeton University economist Angus Deaton, who spoke to Buzzfeed. It also happened twice in the 1920s. "We need to get a handle on it".

A three-year decline happened in 1916, 1917 and 1918, which included the worst flu pandemic in modern history.

First, 2016 was one of the most lethal years for drug overdoses.

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The federal statistics said other causes of death, including suicide, have increased as well.

The number of people who died - not the rate - went up in 2016.

22 states and the District of Columbia had overdose death rates greater than the national average. Some states have been hit worse than others; in OH, morgues are running out of space, and West Virginia spent $1 million last fiscal year transporting corpses.

It is the first consecutive drop in life expectancy since 1962-63 and surpasses the previous one-year dip in 1993 at the height of the Aids epidemic. Outside of deaths caused by unintentional injuries - which drug overdoses fall into - suicide and Alzheimer's disease were the other leading causes.

An increase in drug deaths among people of child-bearing age can affect the country's birth rate, which is already approaching historic lows.

-Gun deaths rose for a second year, to almost 39,000.

"They have a much more fragile existence than they would have had a generation ago", she told NPR.

Iceland, Switzerland and Japan have the longest life expectancies, and South Africa has the lowest.

"The fact that USA has basically stagnated over the past seven years - and now we're seeing small declines - is a real sign that the U.S.is doing badly", said Jessica Ho, a University of Southern California researcher who studies death trends.

  • Marjorie Miles