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Opioid crisis hits US life expectancy

23 December 2017

The US healthcare system has taken a severe hit from an opioid crisis and increased rates of hepatitis C related to increased opioid injections and cutting overall life expectancy among US citizens. The overall life expectancy is now down for the second year in a row, US health officials said yesterday.

The news comes from a series of reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed that a total of 63,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, up 21 per cent from 2015. Opioid-related overdoses shot 28 per cent, killing 42,249 people, mostly in the 25-to-54 age group.

''The escalating growth of opioid deaths is downright frightening – and it's getting worse,'' John Auerbach, chief executive officer of the public health advocacy group Trust for America's Health (TFAH), said in a statement.

The continued escalation of deaths from 9,580 in 2015 and 5,540 in 2014, is seen largely due fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, according to a TFAH analysis of the report.

Heroin, an illegal opioid which is typically injected, accounted for around 15,500 deaths, with prescription painkillers being involved in about 14,500, according to TFAH.

''These are not simply numbers - these are actual lives,'' said Benjamin F Miller, chief policy officer of Well Being Trust, a non-profit foundation focused on mental health issues, Reuters reported. ''Seeing the loss of life at this dramatic rate calls for more immediate action.''

The opioid crisis has led to increased awareness of prescription painkillers. Between 1999 and 2009, the rate of overdoses from such drugs increased 13 per cent annually, which has since slowed to 3 per cent per year.

In 2009, prescription narcotics were involved in 26 per cent of all fatal drug overdoses, with heroin involved in 9 per cent and synthetics in just 8 per cent. As against this, in 2016, prescription drugs were involved in 23 per cent of all deadly overdoses.

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