News & Politics

U.S. Life Expectancy Falls Because of Worsening Opioid Crisis

white pills spilled on table

For the second year in a row, U.S. life expectancy has fallen. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average American had a life expectancy of 78.6 years in 2016. That’s a drop of 0.1 compared to 2015.

Opioids seem to be the culprit: “Years of over-prescription of opioid painkillers in the US has created a nationwide addiction crisis, with patients turning to heroin and other street drugs when their prescriptions stop,” the BBC reported.

“The key factor in all this is the increase in drug overdose deaths,” said Robert Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). He said the drop in life expectancy is “shocking.”

63,600 people died from a drug overdose in 2016. That’s up 21 percent from the previous year. And it’s three times more than the rate in 1999. That’s a 300 percent increase in 18 years. “Opioid-related overdoses increased by 28%, killing 42,249 people, mostly in the 25-to-54 age group,” the BBC report noted.

In October of this year, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a “public health emergency.” That’s significant, but he could have gone even further by declaring a “national emergency.” Doing so would trigger the federal government to free up more funds to deal with this terrible health hazard.