Despite modern medicine, sophisticated sanitation systems, the absence of war, and other advantages, it appears that life for U.S. residents is not as good as it could be. The life expectancy of U.S. residents dropped for the third straight year in 2017. Drug use is partially to blame.

Life expectancy is an educated prediction of the lifespan of a baby born in a certain year. This statistic dropped for the third straight year in 2017. In that year, the average person born in the United States is projected to live 78.6 years.

While the large numbers of people in the Baby Boom generation are aging, their deaths aren’t driving this decline in life expectancy. Instead, it’s the deaths of people who are twenty to thirty years old that are driving this decline.

Since people in this age group are often in better heath and typically don’t require extensive medical care, other factors must be contributing to the higher death totals. One such factor is drug use.

It isn’t just any drug use or any drug. The drug fentanyl is one deadly driver behind this sad trend. Fentanyl is similar to heroin but is more deadly than heroin, itself a deadly drug.

In 2017, deaths related to fentanyl increased 45 percent. The previous year, fentanyl contributed to more overdose deaths than any other drug. Fentanyl often combines with other drugs to cause fatal overdoses.

Researchers label drug-related deaths as unintentional injuries. They’re also preventable ones. Many causes of death are. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 the leading causes of death were

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Unintentional injuries
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer disease
  • Diabetes
  • Influenza and pneumonia
  • Kidney disease
  • Suicide

Many of the conditions on this list are preventable. People can stop smoking to decrease their risk of developing certain kinds of cancer, for example. Or, if people do develop many of the conditions on this list, they can seek medical and/or therapeutic help to prevent their conditions from worsening.

Drug abuse is one such condition. People might visit therapists and exercise to boost their mental and physical health to try to prevent addiction. But, if they do develop an addiction to drugs or a dependence on alcohol, they can visit therapists and doctors to treat these conditions.

Finding help for addiction or suicidal thoughts – so-called diseases of despair – is vital. Such help can help people cope with despair. It can help them from becoming a statistic. It can help raise life expectancy and their own personal expectations.