Study blames opioids for average US life expectancy drop

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MERRICK -

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that opioids are shortening life expectancies in the United States by two and a half months.

It's now 78.8 years.

"The substance use disorder crisis is taking American lives at a rate we've never before seen," says Steven Chassman, of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. "It's not surprising that the life expectancy is taking a toll."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 64,000 people died of opioid-linked overdoses in 2016 alone.

Joseph Schmidt overdosed four years ago after a long battle with opioid addiction, says his mother, Lisa Schmidt. 

"His presence is not here," she says. "Every holiday gets harder, every birthday, every milestone that he's not here with us."

According to the CDC, the types of opioids used have shifted over the last 10 years as well. A decade ago, prescription drugs like oxycodone killed more users. Now, experts say, it's heroin, fentanyl and similar street drugs.

"This day and age you can't be a recreational user," Schmidt says. "You're not guaranteed waking up."

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