CBS Local — The nationwide opioid epidemic in America has affected millions of people and already cost tens of thousands of lives. New research from the U.S. government has now revealed that the national crisis is also cutting into the average life expectancy in the U.S.

According to a CDC report, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the skyrocketing number of opioid deaths in the country has shaved more than two months off the average American lifespan. The CDC’s lead researcher, Dr. Deborah Dowell, says opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers were the main cause of drug-related deaths from 2000 to 2015.

“There is an urgency to this problem,” said Dr. Adam Bisaga. “The tragedy is, we have medication to treat opioid addiction. But death rates keep going up,” the professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center added. Bisaga says there are only around 5,000 addiction specialists in the U.S. so primary care physicians have to be a part of the treatment. The professor claimed however, many doctors feel they lack the expertise to treat opioid addiction and worry about the medications used to treat it.

Overall, the CDC reports the American life expectancy climbed from 77 years to 79 years over the course of the study. The new average lifespan in 2015 would have reportedly been even higher without the rising total of fatal drug overdoses.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the country’s opioid epidemic claimed over 33,000 lives in 2015. HHS estimates 12.5 million people misused prescription drugs and over 800,000 used heroin that year.


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