HealthDay News — From 2000-2015, drug-poisoning deaths contributed a loss of 0.28 years in life expectancy, according to a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Deborah Dowell, MD, MPH, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues estimated the number of deaths and death rates due to poisoning and the 12 leading causes of death, and estimated life expectancy in 2000 and 2015.

The researchers observed an increase in life expectancy at birth from 2000-2015, from 76.8 to 78.8 years. Decreases were seen in death rates related to heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and kidney disease, contributing a gain of 2.25 years to the change in life expectancy. 

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Increases were seen in death rates related to unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, suicide, chronic liver disease, and septicemia, contributing a loss of 0.33 years to the change in life expectancy. From 2000-2015, drug-poisoning deaths increased (age-adjusted death rate increased from 6.2 to 16.3 per 100,000 population), with most of the increase due to opioid deaths. Drug-poisoning deaths contributed to a loss of 0.28 years in life expectancy; 0.21 years were lost due to opioid-related poisoning deaths.

“These findings suggest that preventing opioid-related poisoning deaths will be important to achieving more robust increases in life expectancy once again,” the authors write.

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Dowell D, Arias E, Kochanek K, et al. Contribution of opioid-involved poisoning to the change in life expectancy in the United States, 2000-2015. JAMA. 2017;318(11):1065-1067.