Rise in addiction one reason for drop in life expectancy in U.S.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The life expectancy in the United States drops for the third year according to the Centers for Disease Control. The agency says there were 70, 237 drug overdose deaths in 2017.

"You have over 70,000 people overdosing on drugs altogether, said Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Azzam with the Drug and Enforcement Administration. “That should not be acceptable in this country today.”

According to the CDC, the death rates were higher among the age groups between 25-34 and 35-44. The rates brought down the life expectancy .1 to 78.6.

“A baby born today can be expected to live five weeks less than a baby born last year,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, Region One medical director for the state health department.

The report shows that women will continue to outlive men, living to 81 years compared to men at 76.

“It actually saddens me that we don’t wake up a little more as a society to say, ‘Hey, this should be the most important thing that everyone is talking about daily,’” said Azzam.

From the enforcement side, Azzam said they are doing their part to get the drugs out of the country, but he said communities need to do their part.

“We’re doing divergent control. We’re doing enforcement. We’re doing community outreach,” Azzam said. “In the coming months you will see a program that we are going to roll out here in New Orleans called DEA 360.”

DEA 360 is a program that takes a comprehensive approach by working with drug manufactures, local law enforcement and community leaders. It has been launched in a handful of cities, and Azzam says New Orleans will have one in 2019.

“70,000 Americans dying every year from all drugs, that’s unacceptable,” said Azzam. “We need to do more, and we have to do more as a nation.”

Dr. Kanter said medical professionals can also do more, but so can the rest of the community by ending the stigma around addiction.

“The end result is that these individuals are less likely to go get treatment. They stay in the shadows. They struggle with their addiction and some of them unfortunately overdose.”

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