31st December 2017

New decline in US life expectancy due to opioids

Many drug-related deaths, particularly those resulting from opioid overdoses, have contributed to a reduction in life expectancy among Americans for the second year in a row in 2016, in an unprecedented decline since the early 1960s.

 In 2016, life expectancy at birth in the United States was 78.6 years, compared with 78.7 years in 2015, a decline of nearly one month, and 78.9 years in 2014, according to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"It  was the first time that the overall life expectancy in the United States has declined two years in a row since the early 1960s" said Robert Anderson, director of statistics at the CDC center. He noted that “The key factor in all this is the increase in drug overdose deaths.” For a long time the high number of deaths from overdoses was offset by the decline in deaths from heart disease-vascular, but this decline has slowed."

By the end of October, US President Donald Trump described the opioid addiction as a "health emergency" and promised to eliminate this "scourge", while stressing that it "will take several years."

An estimated 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids. This type of drug includes antidepressants, such as Fentanyl and Oxycontein, as well as heroin  which is often mixed with other substances.

The decline in life expectancy in 2015 was also associated with the opioids crisis, the first recorded since 2013.

In 2016, the United States recorded 63,600 deaths from overdose, or 174 per day, according to the latest statistics. This represents 19.8 per 100,000 people, an increase of 20 per cent compared to 2015 (16.3 per 100,000 inhabitants). This rate has increased threefold since 1999 (6.1 per 100,000 inhabitants).

Among adults aged between 25 and 54 years old, this rate is 35 per 100,000. "The sad figures published today by the CDC Centers confirm that we are losing a generation of Americans because of addiction, which is a preventable disease," said the addiction policy group.

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