The U.S life expectancy has been dropping year-on-year since 2015. However, it's not due to the prevalence of a number of illnesses. It isn't even because of the amount of car deaths on American roads. Rather, it's down to the increasing number of opioid deaths across the country.
In some of the most recent reports, around 63,000 Americans died of an overdose in 2016; of that, almost two thirds were the direct result of an opioid overdose. That adds up to roughly 42,249.
This was up from the 52,400 deaths caused by overdoses the year beforehand; opioid related deaths add up to about 33,000 of these. All told, that's a 28% increase in the space of a year.
Ever since 2013, opioid related deaths have shot up by 88% across the country. These figures are even more startling when Fentanyl - a synthetic opioid - is looked at further. From 2015 to 2016, deaths caused by overdoses of Fentanyl doubled, going from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2015 to 6.2 deaths per 100,000 in the space of a year. Heroin itself saw an increase of 2,000 deaths throughout the year, going from 13,000 in 2015 to 15,000 in 2016.
That means that opioid overdoses are now one of the leaders of causes of death in the United States, surpassing the likes of car crashes and many other causes. For contrast, car crashes took the lives of some 37,400 in 2016. Breast cancer was approximately 40,000 and gun related deaths were about 38,000.
Even more startling is that the overdose related numbers jumped to 72,000 people during 2017, an increase of about 10%. Approximately 49,000 of these were caused by opiates. The largest contributor to this was Fentanyl, which caused 29,000 deaths and was followed by Heroin and then a number of other drugs.
As many reports have suggested, this shows no sign of slowing down. According to a number of reports from the likes of the National Safety Council, over twenty states - plus Washington D.C - had opioid deaths that were higher than the average across the country. That average? 19.8 fatalities per 100,000 people.
However, it should be noted that some argue that the rate is 20% higher than many official figures show. If that's correct, then the opioid epidemic is taking more lives per annum than the AIDS epidemic did when it was at its peak.
2015 and 2016 were the first time in decades that the U.S life expectancy rate dropped for two consecutive years; the last time it occurred was in the 1960's. The rate also hasn't been this low since 1993, when the United States was in the grasp of an AIDS epidemic. Now however, it looks like the drop has been man-made; or, at least it hasn't been affected by many natural causes.
The rise in opioid related deaths also hasn't been for a specific age group; in contrast, they've increased across all age levels. Having said that, though, figures have shown that these deaths are being felt more among the 25 to 54 year old age bracket.
Currently, the main cause of these deaths is Fentanyl; the synthetic opiate can be up to 50 times stronger than many other illegal opioids.