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Drug overdoses, suicides cut down American life expectancy

CDC report shows a troubling decline in U.S life expectancy due to the increasing number of suicides and drug overdoses in 2017.

Posted: Dec 7, 2018 6:23 PM

(St. Joseph,MO)According to a new report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the average life expectancy of Americans is declining due to an uptick in the number of suicides and overdose deaths. In 2017, the CDC reported 2,744,248 deaths (an approximately death rate of 849 deaths per 100,000 in a population).

The number of deaths include the natural trends of growing and aging populations, but experts said the death of younger, and middle aged Americans is typically what has the largest impact on the calculation of life expectancy. For children born in 2017, the report estimates their average life expectancy to be approximately 78.6 years old.

In a statement issued by CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the CDC expressed concerns over the growing number of preventable deaths.

“The latest CDC data show that the U.S. life expectancy has declined over the past few years. Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide. Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” Redfield said.

Dr. Dustin Smith from the St. Kolbe Puckett Center for Healing said in communities across Missouri there is a growing presence of opiates.

"What I'm witnessing is the availability and the concentration of drugs has become worse in the last five years,”Smith said.

Last year there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths reported in the United States, a ten percent increase from 2016. In 2017 adults age 25 to 54 had higher rates of drug overdose deaths.

“When medical care is delayed, then the consequences are harsher. It affects so many aspects not only in medicine by also in our society,”Smith said.

Many healthcare professionals have concluded that there is an overlap between trends in addiction and people likely to commit suicide.

Andrew Fisher, certified counselor and owner of Fisher Counseling, said adults facing extreme pressures or depression often times feel there is no other way of resolving their problems.

"There is the notion that they feel broken, they feel lost. They are trying to escape psychological pain, that's what leads us to this position,” Fisher said.

Over 47,000 people took their own lives in 2017, pushing the national suicide rate to the highest its been in the last 50 years, according to government records.

"A lot of times people experience these suicidal thoughts, these suicidal tendencies, and these thoughts, these tendencies are more symptomatic of other things; finances, feeling stuck, feeling like they don't necessarily have a path out of this,” Fisher said.

For many adults getting access to care can be the biggest hurdle to getting immediate help.

“A suicide is preventable, it is something we can kind of cope with. It’s always access to care, getting people in. I find for myself, at the moment, I have a six to seven week wait,” Fisher said.“It’s hard to get people in on a whim in an emergency.”

Since 2008, suicide has been the 10th leading cause of death for Americans of all ages. In 2016, suicide jumped to the second leading cause of death of people 35 and younger, but Fisher said the highest suicide rate comes from adults 55 and older.

"It's a higher rate in elderly populations, but it's not the leading cause of death in the elderly population," Fisher said.

Medical professionals recommend talking with loved ones, and offering support to help them through their struggles with addiction and depression.

"There are a lot of people out there suffering in silence, where they feel ashamed of what they are going through.This is a deadly disease and what people need to do is, they need to be willing to say 'I've got an issue and I don't want to live this way anymore',"Smith said.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering the option of creating a three digit code, similar to 9-1-1, for a national suicide prevention hotline. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or addiction, call the 24-hour Missouri Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

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