What killed more people in recent years — those struggling under urban overpasses or snug in their suburban beds — than guns did at the early-1990s peak in U.S. homicides?
It’s not a hard question: opioids. They killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017, a record. But the rate at which opioid deaths had added up, and their negative pull on the overall life expectancy in rich, advanced America is alarming, especially when charted.
Drug-overdose deaths skyrocketed between 2015 and 2017, particularly for adults between ages 25 and 54, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday. Deaths from synthetic opioids rose 45% in 2017, while the death rate from heroin, which had risen sharply after 2010, was flat. The main culprit was fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that became pervasive in illicit drug supplies in the U.S. around that time.
Related: One piece of good news in the fight against America’s opioid epidemic
Read: Opioids only partly explain America’s ‘deaths of despair’
And: This state’s largest insurer cuts coverage for OxyContin
In fact, opioid deaths are what helped push average U.S. life expectancy down by one-tenth of a year, to 78.6 years, from 2016 to 2017, the CDC said Thursday. Though life expectancy was also pushed down by the sharpest annual increase in suicides in nearly a decade.
Read more: U.S. life expectancy drop continues worst trend in 100 years
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