Overdoses, suicides lower US life expectancy

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Nothing gives us hope for the future more than the sight of a newborn baby. But babies born today in America can expect to have a shorter lifespan than those born a decade ago.

“In 2017 there were more than 70,000 drug overdoses in the U.S and the decrease in life expectancy that we are seeing now, three years in a row. We haven't seen that in the U.S. since the 1918 flu pandemic which took so many lives. So to have that compared to this current epidemic we are having with drug overdoses and suicides is a tremendous thing to see,” says Dr. Laura Knight, Washoe County Medical Examiner.

Dr. Knight says most of those drug overdoses are occurring in adults in their 20s to 40s.

Here in Washoe County those drug overdoses aren't just prescription opioids, but also methamphetamine, as well as synthetic Fentanyl.

“We've seen a handful of the Fentanyl analogues, but in 2016 we saw four of those types of cases. 2017 saw 9. 2018 we saw even more; we are still tallying those and so unfortunately we are catching up with the trend,” says Dr. Knight.

Dr. Knight says nationwide, one in five adults between 20 and forty will die of a drug overdose. She says that translates into about 70,000 additional deaths last year alone.

Combine that with the increase in suicides nationwide of 47,000 last year, the highest in a half century---the life expectancy rates go down as a whole. Both of these health hazards are preventable.

But as Dr. Knight says while there has been a concerted effort to address suicide and drug overdoses, it's going to take more effort and time to change course and actually constrain those actions that prevent a long and healthy life.