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The AIDS Crisis vs. The Opioid Crisis (And Their Effect on Life Expectancy in the U.S.)

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Life expectancy rates have decreased in the U.S. recently. The main reason seems to be the opioid epidemic, which caused more than 37,800 deaths in 2016 (or more than half of the drug overdose deaths in the country that year). This crisis is similar to the AIDS crisis of the late 80s and early 90s, which caused the last dip in life expectancy in 1993.

The life expectancy rate dropped to 75.42 years in 1993 because of the AIDS epidemic as well as a few other factors, including homicides and influenza. In 2015, the life expectancy of U.S. residents decreased by 0.1 years for the first time since 1993, mostly as a result of the opioid epidemic. Both crises occurred at a time where other factors were present but where each stood out as major causes of this decrease.

Developed countries like the U.S. don’t normally see a decrease in life expectancy at all, which is what makes both of these instances so shocking. In fact, the U.S. has struggled with lower life expectancy rates than is befitting of a developed country for years, ending up far lower on the list of countries by life expectancy than it ranks on the list of countries by development factors.

Treatment does exist for opioid addiction, but sadly, many people do not seek professional, medical care for substance use disorders. Also, if the experience of the AIDS crisis is any indicator, there is a possibility this epidemic will worsen before it gets better.

Addictions Infographic - Opioid Crisis

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