If you think the opioid crisis isn’t having a drastic affect on the U.S. as a whole, it’s time to think again. This week, it was announced that the nation’s life expectancy was on the decline thanks, for the most part, to overdoses attributed to painkillers. Today the average American is expected to live to the age of 78.6, dropping for the second straight year.
The Washington Post published a telling article on the topic, zeroing in on the drug crisis that is tearing lives apart. Their research from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a 21 percent increase in fatal overdose this year. And, when averaged in, they held back longevity from U.S. citizens as a whole.
The truly startling fact is that this is the second year U.S. life expectancy has declined. The last time there was a two year decrease like this was back in 1962 and 1963, during an influenza crisis. Even the rise of diseases like AIDS never led to these types of numbers.
“I think we should take it very seriously,” National Center for Health Statistics chief Bob Anderson told The Post. “If you look at the other developed countries in the world, they’re not seeing this kind of thing. Life expectancy is going up.”
Put into raw numbers, there were 42,000 U.S. deaths attributed to the opioid crisis in 2016 alone. And many of those struck down were younger Americans, greatly skewing the national average.
Heart disease and cancer are still the leading causes of American deaths, but in the Washington Post chart below you’ll see a spike in the Unintentional Injuries category. That, of course, represents drug-related overdoses and it is clearly on the rise.
It also worth noting that men, in particular, appear to be the most affected. Their life expectancy dropped to 76.1 years, which is below the national average.
Now for the scariest part of all. This actually only accounts for the year 2016. According to The Post writer, 2017 has been even more devastating and once this year is over we can expect to see an even sharper expectancy decline.
“It’s even worse than it looks,” Stanford University addiction specialist Keith Humphreys told the site. “We could easily be at 50,000 opioid deaths this year. That means that even if you ignored deaths from all other drugs, the opioid epidemic alone is deadlier than the AIDS epidemic at its peak. My guess is that when all of the data is in that the  trend line will be even steeper than 2016.”