Although the United States is one of the world’s most developed countries, its life expectancy rate is somewhat lower than the majority of other countries in the same position. There are many factors contributing to this issue, but one of the utmost devastating and recent problems is the severe opioid epidemic.
People in the United States have begun to abuse opioid drugs at alarming rates, to the point where opioid misuse—whether intentional or accidental—has led to a severely high overdose death rate. For example, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have risen exponentially from around 15,000 in 1999 to over 64,000 in 2016. Furthermore, over 20,000 of these deaths were caused by the use of synthetic opioids alone, not including methadone or heroin (the death rates for which were 3,314 and 14,427, respectively). These numbers are disturbing, and unfortunately, have been a serious contributor to the dropping life expectancy rate in the U.S.
Infants born after 2015 now have a shorter predicted lifespan than infants born before this time. One of the major reasons for this is the opioid epidemic. This is the first time in decades that our country has seen a decrease in life expectancy, and with all the innovations and advancements we have made in the past 20 to 30 years, there is no excuse for this type of dip in life expectancy. Perhaps now people will truly begin to understand how serious the opioid crisis has become, and we may start to make a true effort toward change.