Drug overdoses are set to claim more lives this year than Americans killed in the Vietnam War.
The death rates for middle age Americans are rising among nearly every racial group after more than 100 years of decline, fueled by addiction to painkillers. Opioids contributed to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 in 2015. Doctors wrote more than 236 million prescriptions for opioids in 2016, showing American appetite for painkillers is not slowing down, reports Axios.
The New York Times recently culled through data from state health departments and county medical examiners and coroners, predicting there were between 59,000 and 65,000 drug deaths in 2016, the largest number ever recorded. That is roughly the same number of lives lost to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam combined.
“There’s no question that there’s an epidemic and that this is a national public health emergency,” Dr. Leana Wen, the commissioner of public health in Baltimore, told The New York Times. “The number of people overdosing is skyrocketing, and we have no indication that we’ve reached the peak.”
A recent analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by The Washington Post shows the death rate for middle-aged Americans rose 8 percent in 2015.
The death rate climbed 12 percent between 2010 and 2015 for white Americans in their prime years. Black Americans between the ages of 25 and 44 experienced a 4 percent increase in their death rate, while American Indians saw an 18 percent increase and Hispanics a 7 percent increase. The increase for Asian Americans was not statistically significant.
More than two million Americans have some sort of physical dependence on opioids, and nearly 100 million Americans have a prescription for the drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.