Around this time last year, Recovery Unplugged published a piece about a decline in life expectancy to the United States that was directly attributable to opioid addiction; we are saddened (but unfortunately not shocked) to report that, in this context, 2018 will end as it begin; with opioid addiction once again curtailing the amount of time the average the average person can expect to live in the richest and most prosperous country in the history of civilization. Once again, the clinical community, legislators and law enforcement, to say nothing of individuals and families, are forced to look at the country they live in and know that, despite having more money and resources than any other, past or present, it has failed them.
What’s In The Report?
According to the government’s annual mortality report, life expectancy in the U.S. overall fell in 2017 for the second time in three years. The average American can now expect to live 78.6, down from 78.7. This marks the first time in literally 100 years, since the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, that the United States has experienced such a significant trend in the loss of life, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The center also reports that rising rates of suicide accompany opioid addiction as a primary driver of this decline, a phenomenon affecting more and more young people. Heart disease and cancer still account for the highest number of deaths. Flu-related deaths also skyrocketed in 2017, accounting for an astonishing six percent of overall fatalities.
Over 70,000 Americans last year. This represents an increase of nearly ten percent from 2016. Approximately 47,000 of these deaths were caused by opioids (28,500 synthetic and 15,400 heroin). Suicide rates increased nearly four percent, and have risen over a third since 1999. Last year, the Trump Administration made initial efforts to address the escalating opioid crisis by declaring it a public health emergency and commissioning a comprehensive report; however, it remains to be seen whether these measures will move the needle in any way.
We Can and Must Do Better
While a .1-year percentage decrease may not seem like a dramatic dip, the reality is that, in a country that offers the most abundance of practically anything in the world, there’s no earthly reason why life expectancy should be going anywhere but up. Based on 2015 numbers from the World Health Organization, the United States has fallen out of the top 30 for life expectancy in the developed world. These are not abstract numbers: they’re our spouses, siblings, parents, friends, colleagues and fellow Americans. If you or someone you care about is struggling with opioid addiction, get help today to avoid becoming another statistic.