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The opioid crisis is driving down USA life expectancy, new data shows

The amount of overdose deaths is so high it is actually impacting the life expectancy numbers in the U.S.

Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, which compiled the mortality data, agrees. An American born in 2015 was expected to live about a month longer and one born in 2014 about two months longer than that. When deaths from drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and benzodiazepines are included, the overall increase was 21 percent.

"If we don't get a handle on this", he said, "we could very well see a third year in a row".

The report noted the 11 main causes of deaths - heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide - remained unchanged from 2015 to 2016. Heroin and prescription opioid overdose deaths also rose, but more modestly.

How does a life expectancy of 78.6 years stack up globally? "The Trump administration's latest proposed budget cuts the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by $400 million", said Stanford's Humphreys, "and the tax bill is projected to lead 13 million people to lose health insurance and any coverage for addiction treatment along with it". The drug overdose problem is a public health problem and it needs to be addressed.

The biggest takeaway from the report is that heart disease and cancer are still far and away the top killers of both men and women in the United States.

"It just keeps going up and up and appears to be accelerating", Anderson said.

Preliminary 2017 figures show the rise in overdose deaths continuing. 1993 was the last time life expectancy had dropped in the country due to the epidemic of AIDS.

More than 42,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2016, a 28 percent increase over 2015. But death rates a year ago continued to go down for people who are 65 and older while going up for all younger adults - those most affected by the opioid epidemic. The political dithering cost 174 deaths a day from drug overdoses in 2016 - one every 8½ minutes, he said.

Everything from bad roads to bad diets to unequal use of health care contributes to the death gap between the United States and other rich countries, Muennig said.

A country's infant mortality rate (the number of births compared with the number of deaths of children under age 1) "is generally regarded as a good indicator of the overall health of a population", according to the report. Many of these deaths were seen at the intersection of the Midwest and Northeast, with West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and New Hampshire being the areas with the highest overdose death rates.

The number of people who fatally overdosed on fentanyl and other synthetic opiates soared from 9,580 in 2015 to 19,413 in 2016.

Deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids more than doubled from the previous year.

The federal statistics said other causes of death, including suicide, have increased as well. "But I think we should be really alarmed".

"It's important to remember these deaths are preventable", she continued. "As a country, we have not reached the peak of this problem". The average global life expectancy was 71.4 and rising, according to that agency's most recent report. The death rate for the entire US population decreased by 0.6 percent from 733.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2015 to 728.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2016.

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