Published: Sat, December 01, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Americans dying younger as opioid crisis deepens

Americans dying younger as opioid crisis deepens

Overall, there were more than 2.8 million US deaths in 2017, or almost 70,000 more than the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The average life expectancy in the United States declined from 78.7 to 78.6 years. CDC analysis of preliminary 2018 drug overdose figures indicates that the increase in deaths may be slowing, but it is unclear if this trend will have persisted through the rest of the year.

"These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable", Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC's director, said in a statement.

One result: Life expectancy in 2017 fell to an average of 78.6 years for the total USA population, down from 78.7 years in 2016. These synthetic opioids account for approximately double the number of deaths caused by natural and semisynthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone, which saw a leveling off in associated deaths between 2016 and 2017. The difference further increased in 2017 with the suicide rate for the most rural counties (20.0 per 100,000) increasing to 1.8 times the rate for the most urban counties (11.1).

Among the nation's top 10 leading causes of death in 2017, only the cancer death rate fell.

West Virginia's rate, the highest in the nation, was 57.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

Among the 10 leading causes of death, the cancer death rate fell, but there were an increase in seven others: suicide, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's, flu/pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries.

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Suicide rates for males were highest for those aged 75 and over in both 1999 (42.4 per 100,000) and 2017 (39.7).

The national goal, under the Healthy People 2020 initiative, has been to reduce the rate to 10.2 per 100,000 by 2020, though clearly things are moving very much in the wrong direction in that sense.

With a rate of 57.8 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people, West Virginia once again had the highest overdose death rate in the country, followed by OH with 46.3 per 100,000 and Pennsylvania with 44.3 per 100,000. The number of people who died past year as a result of those causes also increased from 2016.

A baby born in the United States last year is expected to live about 78 years and 7 months. And it is thanks in large part to increases in drug overdose death and suicide, according to supplementary reports simultaneously released by the CDC. A 2017 analysis of opioid-related fatalities in MA found that heroin or fentanyl was the deadliest drug in 85 percent of the cases. The increases were particularly concentrated in rural America, and among middle-aged women, though the suicide rate for men remains higher than that for women at every age.

The percentage of suicides due to drug overdose has been inching downward. In 1999, the death rate was just 6.1 per 100,000. However, since 2008, suicide has ranked 10 and has been growing at an alarming rate.

A comprehensive approach is needed to tackle the opioid epidemic, she said, including preventing new cases of opioid addiction and making treatments for opioid-use disorder more accessible. Earlier CDC reports have noted increasing rates of suicide by gun.

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