29-11-18. – life expectancy has continued to decline in the United States in 2017 compared to 2014, a historical deterioration due mainly to the drug overdose crisis, but also to the rise in suicide, according to Health statistics published Thursday.
"This is the first time we have seen a downward trend since the great flu epidemic of 1918," AFP Robert Anderson said, no mortality statistics from the National Center of Death, Health Statistics, which discloses the data. Anderson pointed out, however, that the decline was much stronger in 1918.
In 2017, the life expectancy at birth was 76.1 years for men and 81.1 years for women. The average for the population was 78.6 years old, compared to 78.9 in 2014.
In addition, they are three and a half years less than in Canada, on the other side of the border and also affected by overdose.
"These statistics alert us and show that we lose many Americans, very soon, for avoidable causes," said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The scourge of drug overdose began in the early 2000s and its intensity has increased for four years.
In 2017, about 70,000 Americans died of drug overdose, 10% more than in 2016.
In terms of death, Anderson compared this situation to the rise of the HIV epidemic but with a difference: that it diminished rapidly. The statistician expects overdose to follow the same path. "We are a developed country, life expectancy should increase, not diminish," he said.
Of the 35 OECD countries, only Iceland has recently seen a decrease in life expectancy, according to figures until 2016. In all other places, it has risen or has stalled.
The suicides also continued to increase parallel to 2017 in the United States, reaching 47,000 deaths. Since 1999, the rate of suicide increased 33%.
"We have a lot of work ahead to reverse these trends," said Democratic congressman Bill Foster.
– Opiacis –
There are two categories of overdose. One for non-opiate drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, and another for psycho-stimulants, for which approximately 27,000 people died.
But the increase is due largely to the second category: opiate.
This includes heroin, morphine and so-called semisynthetic opioids, such as oxicodone, a prescription analgesic but sold on the black market, with the help of accomplished doctors and laboratories who claim to ignore the problem, and they are usually the gateway to addiction.
Lately, most of the deaths come from a new generation of drugs: synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, dozens of times more potent than heroin, with which the slightest dose error it can be fatal. About 28,000 Americans died in 2017 due to fentanyl or similar drugs.
"The opiate market is now completely dominated by fentanyl," he told The Washington Post Joshua Sharfstein, a former health physician at Maryland at the Johns Hopkins University.
The death rate for synthetic opiate doubled from 2015 to 2016. Last year, it increased by 45%.
But the 2017 figures revealed a detail that gives a relative hope: the number of overdose continues to grow, but at a slower pace.
Preliminary data for 2018 even suggests that the crisis reached its peak at the beginning of the year. "But it's hard to say," since there are only data for a few months now, said a cautious Robert Anderson.
In Staten Island, New York, Dr. Harshal Kirane, director of addiction services, prevents conclusions to be drawn. "It is encouraging to see that the course is curved, no doubt," he told AFP. "But 70,000 dead, it's still difficult to pair."
Not all the country is equally affected by this plague. The states of the center, from Texas to South Dakota, are relatively safe.
The crisis is acute in New England, on the northeast corner, where overdose deaths provide more than a quarter of organ donations, competing with traffic accidents.
It is also very strong in two states of the old industrial belt (Ohio and Pennsylvania) and above all, in the very poor West Virginia, which is at the head with the sad figure of 58 deaths per 100,000 people , compared to a national average of 22.