‘Out-Of-Control’ Drug ‘Epidemic’ Is Driving Up Death Rates For All Americans

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

The death rate for Americans in the prime years of their lives is steadily rising for nearly every race in the country, fueled by the worsening drug crisis.

Americans between the ages of 25 and 44 are facing increases in mortality after decades of declines due in large part to opioid abuse. The trend began in 2010 when abuse of prescription painkillers reached a critical level in the U.S., and by 2015 the death rate for middle-aged Americans rose 8 percent. The loss of life from drug abuse is effecting every racial and ethnic group in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Washington Post.

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 Native Americans saw an 18 percent increase and Hispanics a 7 percent increase. The increase for Asian Americans was not statistically significant.

“The data is very concerning,” Leandris Liburd, director of the CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, told The Washington Post. “We do not want to see death rates going up for any age, or any ethnic or racial group. The rise in mortality is likely due to multiple factors, and opioids are certainly a part of the problem.”

Death rates were previously lower for groups living in metropolitan hubs than more rural areas, however since 2010 the rates are rising across all regions of the country. Every state is suffering increasing death rates for residents between 25 and 44 since 2010 with the exception of Hawaii. The District of Columbia is also an outlier.

Officials expect the disturbing trend to continue.

“What it reflects is an out-of-control epidemic right now,” Josh Sharfstein, director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins, told The Washington Post. “It’s affecting the economy. It’s affecting the entire community.”

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 number one cause of death for Americans under 50. 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.

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