Opioid Abuse Has Cut U.S. Life Expectancy

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New York prosecutors said this week that an August drug raid yielded 140 pounds of fentanyl, the most in the city’s history and enough to kill 32 million people. Those numbers underscore the dizzying size of the current opioid crisis. On Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers published an analysis showing the crisis has actually negatively impacted life expectancy in the U. S., the Washington Post reports.  The analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, crunched the numbers recorded by the National Vital Statistics System Mortality file, a storehouse of death data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, from between 2000 to 2015.

It found that the average American’s life expectancy grew overall from 2000 to 2015, but that the astounding rise in opioid-related deaths shaved 2.5 months off this improvement. That’s .21 years, compared to the .02 years taken off the average life expectancy by alcohol overdoses. “It really underlines how serious the problem of opioid overdose has become in the U.S.,” the CDC’s Deborah Dowell told Time. “In general we don’t see decreases in life expectancy attributable to a single cause that are of this magnitude.” While overdose deaths in general in the U.S. more than doubled in that 15-year span, opioid overdoses more than tripled, the study reported. The average life expectancy for an American born in 2010 was 76.8 years, which grew to 78.8 years in 2015. The study suggested that but for opioid-related deaths, it would have been higher still.

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