Study Shows Opioid Epidemic Causing Drop in Life Expectancy

Most of us are familiar with the various epidemics that have taken lives through the decades.  We’ve seen flu epidemics, the West Nile Virus, Mad Cow Disease, SARS, and many more.  It seems humans are always the target of some little death-bringer.  Aside from that, humans also bring death on themselves.  We eat junk food, watch too much TV, drink alcohol, and smoke cigarettes.  As if those weren’t damaging enough, we also love to take pills.  Our medicine cabinets overflow with a variety of chemical concoctions.  We use them to treat even the most minor human discomforts. Of course, most prescription or over-the-counter pills are beneficial when used correctly.  But, new facts on prescription drugs indicate that this isn’t always the case.  Hence, we are fighting the opioid epidemic, and it seems to be the fight of our lives.

Today, we have another deadly epidemic in our midst.  Namely, the opioid epidemic.  A massive upsurge in opioid use and abuse abounds from coast to coast.   And, the death toll is astounding.

The Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on Life Expectancy Predictions

Through the centuries, human life expectancy has fluctuated.  Our longevity is influenced by many factors. Environment, availability of nutritious food, and lifestyle each play a role. In 2015, JAMA published a study about the part of opioid abuse on life expectancy.  The report shows that in the U.S., from 2000 to 2015, opioid poisoning mortalities more than tripled.  Life-expectancy rates increased by 2.0 years.  But, the widespread opioid deaths caused a drop in that number.

Shocking Facts About Prescription Drug Abuse and the Opioid Epidemic

The average person doesn’t like to hear bad news.  We hear about thousands of deaths from natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes.  Our hearts feel pain about the tragedy. But, when we hear about thousands of drug overdose deaths, many of us go about our day unaffected. Comprehending the magnitude of the opioid epidemic is hard.  We don’t intend to be insensitive, but unless something affects us personally, we often dismiss it.  So, let’s look at each of the following numbers and try to visualize a real person who did not intend to become an addict or a statistic:

  • In 2015 in the U.S., 52,404 people died from drug overdoses.
  • Of those, 20,101 deaths were attributed to prescription pain relievers.
  • 12,990 of those deaths were attributed to heroin.
  • Four in five new heroin users were previously misusing prescription opioids.
  • More than 35 million survey respondents over the age of 12 admitted abusing drugs at least once in their life.
  • About 2.6 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 have abused prescription drugs.
  • 6.9 million young adults aged 18 to 25 have abused prescription drugs.
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.
  • About 300 million prescriptions for painkillers were written in 2015.
  • Americans consume 80% of the global opioid supply.

These shocking facts reveal the massive scope of the opioid epidemic we face today.  Across the nation, individuals and organizations are joining forces to expand education and awareness campaigns.  Treatment providers and insurance companies are working to provide more affordable and efficient rehab programs. Politicians and advocacy groups called for stricter measures for monitoring prescriptions. For that reason, the federal government established the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to track prescriptions and identify drug-seekers.  Because of these combined efforts, many lives are saved.  But, we need to do more to combat this opioid epidemic.

A Long History of Getting High

Throughout history, humans have used various plants and herbs to induce a euphoric state. Primitive tribes smoked dried herbs to enhance their spiritual experience during religious ceremonies. We, humans, continue to find creative ways of producing mind-altering effects. Today, we are surrounded by legal and illegal substances that are capable of providing a long-lasting high for those who seek such an experience.

Easy availability of mind-altering substances isn’t the only problem.  Our youth today are bombarded with movies, music, products, and books that promote recreational drug use.  If a teen wants to get high, many of them just go to their parents’ medicine cabinet.  They find a virtual “candy store” of muscle-relaxers, painkillers, sleep-aids, antidepressants, and more. These teens mistakenly assume the drugs are safe because their parents are using them and they were prescribed by a doctor.  So, what does all of that have to do with life-expectancy rates?

How are Life-Expectancy Rates Calculated?

According to News-Medical, life expectancy rates are determined by using a complicated method of comparing data.  They describe it this way:

To calculate the age-specific death rates, different data groups that are believed to be associated with varying rates of mortality (such as smokers versus non-smokers, for example) are considered separately. The data are then used to draw up a life table or actuarial table. These tables can be used to predict how likely it is that a person of a given age will die before their next birthday. From here, several points can be calculated, including:

  • The person’s probability of surviving to any given age.
  • The life expectancy is remaining for people of various ages.”

Within this framework, many variables must be considered.  In 2015, the average life- expectancy at birth was 71.4 years.  Not everyone reached that goal.  Opioid abuse is one of the reasons many people died, and more will die before they should.

Effects of Opioid Abuse on Life Expectancy for Young People

How it Affects the Teen

A human brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties or early thirties.  When a teen or young adult abuses drugs, their developing brain is affected in many adverse ways.  Drug use also has detrimental effects on the young person’s physical health as well.  Some of the effects of opioids on teens can include:

  • Inhibits natural production of dopamine
  • Adverse effects on neurons in the brain
  • Inability to make sound judgment
  • Poor memory and impaired cognitive functioning
  • Long-term mental or emotional problems
  • Poor coordination, causing injuries or death

How It Affects Society

Teen drug abuse affects society in many ways.  The most significant effect is the increased crime and the costs involved.  Support, treatment, hospitalization, or incarceration for these individuals carry a considerable price tag.  Thousands of victims of drug-related crime suffer financially and emotionally.  Far too many of these young people drop out of school.  They never reach their full potential that could have been a benefit to society.  Homelessness, prostitution, and disease overwhelm our cities because of the massive number of addicts who are unable to function productively.  As a result, these young people have significantly lowered their life-expectancy.  In fact, opioid overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in our nation today.

Finding Help for Opioid Addiction Begins Here

Opioid addiction is a complex disorder that cannot be resolved by abstinence alone.  The physiological and psychological damages require professional expertise to ensure safe and lasing withdrawal.  In most cases, an inpatient treatment program is the best approach.  In this type of facility, addicts are surrounded by compassionate, well-trained addiction specialists and staff.  Also, the programs can be adapted to each patient’s specific needs.  A variety of activities and classes help recovering addicts attain particular goals each day.  This approach to treatment allows individuals to regain self-confidence and learn the skills for being a productive member of society.

If you are ready to take back the life you once cherished, we can help you.  Call our toll-free number today.  At About Addiction, our team knows how to get you off the drugs and on the path to enjoying life again.

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