End of life IssuesHealthcare PolicyHuman InterestPreventive Medicine


COVID-19 and drug overdoses have once again resulted if a further lowering of the life expectancy of American adults. 

From 2020 to 2021, the overall death rate increased 5.3% from 835.4 to 879.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The actual life expectancy dropped over a half year from 77.0 years to 76.4 years, a drop of 0.6 years. 

Life expectancy decreased for every age group starting at age 1 year and older. The leading causes of death in 2021 were heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19. Influenza and pneumonia dropped out of the top 10 causes of death in 2021. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 increased from 2020 to 2021 by 18.8%; 350,831 increased to 416,893 deaths. 

Males experienced a 0.7 year decrease in life expectancy from 74.2 to 73.5 years. Females saw a 0.6-year decrease from 79.9 to 79.3 years. Death rates for Black and Hispanic males decreased by 2% between 2020 and 2021. White males and females saw about a 7% increase in death rates.

That last figure (death rates for Whites) was not explained or elaborated upon. And it was the last statistic cited in the article. The next article may provide an explanation, however. 

The follow-up article was about the increases in adolescent deaths from fentanyl overdoses. In 2021, almost 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. For two decades overdose deaths have been increasing, especially during the pandemic. In 2001, there were 6.8 OD’s per 100,000 people. In 2006, that rate increased to 11.5 per 100K, and during the pandemic it rose to 28.3 and in 2021 to 32.4 per 100,000. That’s staggering! In 20 years, deaths from overdoses increased nearly four-fold. The highest rate of overdosing was among the 35-44 age group who had 62 OD’s/100,000 Americans. The lowest overdose rate was among those 65 years and older who managed to still have 12 per 100,000. But this oldest age group had the largest increase from 2020 to 2021 (28%) of any age group. 

What a sad commentary on American society—shorter life expectancy and a four-fold increase in fentanyl overdoses. What’s wrong with us, anyway? Why do we have such a pervasive drug culture? Is life really that bad? It’s not just fentanyl, though. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and methadone overdose deaths have increased, too. Surprisingly heroin overdose deaths have dropped by about one third. 

Deaths from illicitly manufactured fentanyl increased by 182% among adolescents and accounted for 84% of all opioid deaths. The danger of illicit fentanyl cannot be ignored. Mexican cartels don’t believe in quality control, bioavailability, or consistency in production. Nor do they care if someone dies. Money and power are their only concerns. 

A solution to this problem was not offered; only discouraging statistics. Cutting off the supply of fentanyl from Mexico and China will reduce the potential for overdoses, but will also increase demand by abusers. Increased demand will lead to more crime among the addicted, and further societal decline. Somehow people have to be re-educated or “re-programmed” to put less reliance on drugs to cope with life. There is a “drug culture” in America. It’s “creed” says drug use is a normal part of life. Using drugs enables us to do things we otherwise could not. That needs to be proven to be wrong. Mental health resources need to be greatly increased to deal with this crisis. Attitudes toward drug use must change. Calling it “recreational drug use” is simply crazy. “Recreational” implies it is a form of fun which is the wrong emphasis. It’s still illegal and illicit.  

The battle between good and evil lives on. As long as a large portion of the populace sees drug use as ok, fatal overdoses will continue and statistics will worsen. With our southern border wide open and drugs flowing freely, it seems that some people don’t want the problem to get better. I don’t understand that mindset. It’s destructive and is wasting peoples’ lives. When we see what drug abuse does to people—broken families, crime, homelessness, HIV, Hep B, C, and on and on—you would think people would want it to stop, but it doesn’t. Instead, it just gets worse.

References: News from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “US Life Expectancy in 2021 Lowest since 1996.” JAMA 2023 Jan 24/31;329(4):280.

News from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Fentanyl Drives Startling Increase in Adolescent Overdose Deaths” JAMA 2023 January 24/31;329(4):280-281.

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