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17 October
Opioid epidemic lowering life expectancy in US
By Rachael

Opioid epidemic lowering life expectancy in US

Since the World War II, life expectancy in the United States had been looking up due to medical advances, public health campaigns, better nutrition and education. But in 2015, life expectancy suddenly slipped to where it was four years ago and thereby stalled a decade-long rising trend. It was an unexpected and unexplainable event as there were no major disease outbreaks that year.

In other years when it had declined, there were plausible explanations to justify the downward slide, such as the life expectancy rate declined in 1993 due to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and in 1980-81 due to a highly pandemic influenza virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an American born in 2015 is expected to live an average life span of 78 years and 8 months, which has decreased by a month from 2014. In 2013, life expectancy for the white population was 79.1 years (a 2.3 percent increase from 1999) and that for the black population 75.5 years (an increase by 5.7 percent from 1999). So clearly, there has been an apparent decrease in life expectancy in 2015. At the same time, mortality rate increased by 1.2 percent from 724.6 deaths per 100,000 population in 2014 to 733.1 in 2015.

Is despair spiking mortality rate?

A study, conducted by a team of researchers of the University of Colorado (CU) and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, looked into the reasons behind the startling rise in death rates among middle-aged white men of the U.S. The findings of this research debunk the widely circulated theory that “despair deaths” were responsible for the rising mortality.

The concept of despair deaths is an umbrella term for fatalities related to suicide, alcohol, drugs, etc. One of the earlier contentions propagated widely was that despair over the lack of economic opportunities and an increase in chronic pain led white Americans, particularly men, to take their own lives.

On further analysis, the rates of death were found to be somewhat stable in the case of alcohol abuse and suicide. Instead, the main culprit was found to be the rising opioid epidemic in the U.S.  Moreover, deaths chronic diseases like heart diseases and diabetes have also declined due to the development of advanced treatment and medications.

Striking changes in death rates since the rise of opioids

The researchers went through the volumes of U.S. mortality data from the CDC, National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau for U.S. non-Hispanic white men and women from 1980 to 2014. From the pattern that emerged from the above data, the researchers concluded that two factors that were driving the mortality rate included drug-related deaths, specifically opioid overdoses, and obesity.

One can see a spike in the death rates from drug overdose in the last few decades. While it was 1.4 per 100,000 for men and 1.76 per 100,000 for women in 1980, these numbers climbed to 9.5 for men and 3.6 for women. By 2014, they’d risen to 36.5 for men and 24.4 for women. Notably, the rise in deaths happened about the time prescription opioids became readily available. Moreover, there has been a consistent increase in the numbers.

According to the study, drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men started rising around 1998 and have increased by 25 times since 1980. The similar pattern was found in the case of the black American population.

Path to addiction-free life

The overprescription and misuse of opioid painkillers and heroin are the leading causes of rising number of deaths in America. The increased dependence on opioids for the alleviation of pain has led many people to abuse them. Being highly addictive in nature, it is quite easy to develop an addiction to opioids. Given the rising threat of opioids, a new set of guidelines for the prescription of opioids have been determined. Hopefully, such an effective measure will dissuade medical practitioners from prescribing opioids for any kind of pain.

If you or your loved one is suffering from an addiction to opioids or any other prescription drugs, it is advisable to seek help at the earliest. You may contact the Arizona Prescription Abuse Helpline to find the finest prescription drug abuse treatment clinic in Arizona. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-692-3563 or chat online with one of our experts for more information on the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in Arizona.


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