Government figures released on Thursday recorded 63,600 drug deaths, up from about 52,000 in 2015. "It seems to be leveling off to some extent, and as a result, the drug overdose deaths are more prominent in the overall picture of mortality".
The 2016 United States death rate increased 9.7 percent for unintentional injuries, 3.1 percent for Alzheimer's, partly due to an aging population, and 1.5 percent for suicide.
But from 2014 to 2016, death rates tied to drug overdoses jumped 18 percent each year. Age-adjusted death rates decreased for seven of the top 10 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease.
"The drug overdose deaths seem to be driving what we're seeing", said Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. And while the nation hasn't experienced a back-to-back drop in life expectancy since the 1960s, the CDC says the opioid crisis is shaping up to extend this decline for a third consecutive year, a milestone that hasn't been seen since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. But when opioid drugs attach to the cell receptors in the brain, they can boring your perception of pain even more, which is why some opioid drugs are prescribed by physicians for patients with severe injuries. They had been hovering around 33,500 deaths a few years ago. "This department will continue to follow the president's lead, and I am confident that we can and will turn the tide of the drug crisis". The leading causes of death were the same; congenital malformation, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, maternal complications and unintentional injuries lead the list. For men, however, life expectancy dropped 0.2 years, down from 76.3 years in 2015 to now 76.1 years in 2016.
"It sounds like a small amount, but when you extend that across 300 million people, and the hardship starts to add up pretty quickly".
Citing the CDC report, the Associated Press pointed out that a baby born last year in the U.S.is expected to live about 78 years and 7 months, on average.
"Basically, good things are happening to old people, while bad things are happening to young ones", Deaton told BuzzFeed News. "It's still quite provisional, but it suggests that we're in for another increase" in drug-related deaths, he said.
A change in mortality among young adults also affects the country in other ways, from the psychological toll on parents who have lost an adult child to a reduction in the number of workers helping to provide services for seniors through those workers' taxes, he said.
That partly reflects the growing and aging population in the US.
"We have data for nearly half of 2017 at this point. So whatever it is that is causing more drug use and suicide seems to be having a dampening effect on births as well".
Unintentional drug overdoses account for a third of the unintentional injury category but three-quarters of its increase, Anderson said.
"A lot of the decline that we saw over the last 50-60 years has been due to declines in smoking and maybe we're kind of bottoming out in terms of what we can do", said Anderson. "This data only increases the urgent need for real federal and state action that will save lives".