Life expectancy in the U.S. fell for the second straight year in 2016, due to a surge in opioid related deaths according to federal officials. This trend is particularly concerning because life expectancy is considered an important factor in the general well-being of the country.
In the United States, life expectancy has been rising steadily for decades with only minor dips. The last time life expectancy dropped in the U.S. was in 1993 because of the AIDS epidemic. It’s been more than 50 years since life expectancy was down two years in a row. According to the CDC report, U.S. life expectancy fell from 78.7 in 2015 to 78.6 in 2016.
Fatal drug overdoses spiked to more than 63,000 in 2016, up from 52,400 in 2015. The vast majority of overdoses—42,200 of them, or 120 a day—are opioid-related. Most of the increase has been due to synthetic opioids and illegally manufactured opioids such as fentanyl.
This raises an important question: are we doing enough to solve this problem? Many experts do not think so. The president recently declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, but little else has been done. The public health fund currently holds $57,000 and it’s estimated the true cost of the opioid epidemic is over $500 billion. We’re also failing to provide treatment to people who struggle with drug addiction. Medication treatments like buprenorphine and methadone, which are FDA-approved drugs proven to cut the risk of fatal overdoses, remain unused by the majority of addiction treatment providers.