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FILE - In this 1989 file photo, a razor blade is used to divide the contents of a five-dollar vile of crack, a smokable, purified form of cocaine, at a crack house in the South Bronx section of New York. In the 20th century, abuse outbreaks of cocaine, heroin, and other drugs like methamphetamine, would emerge and then fall back. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Drug overdose deaths drove down US life expectancy for the second year running

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Drug-overdose deaths in 2016 dragged down U.S. life expectancy for the second consecutive year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal on Wednesday reported the drop marked the first consecutive years that American life expectancy fell since the early 1960s.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday said that deaths from drug overdoses in the U.S. rose 21 percent last year to a total of more than 63,600.

CDC officials said that those deaths were the main factor causing life expectancy for Americans born in 2016 to sink to 78.6 years.

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Americans born in 2015 had a life expectancy of 78.7 years, while those born in 2014 had a life expectancy of 78.9 years.

The CDC said last year’s statistics were heavily influenced by widespread black-market availability of such deadly synthetic opioids as fentanyl.

“This whole decrease in life expectancy can be put clearly at the foot of the opioid epidemic,” CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald said.

“We need as a country to have a really thoughtful all-out effort to eliminate this problem,” she added.

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Broad marketing and prescribing of prescription opioid painkillers in the late 1990s helped generate the addiction and overdose crisis plaguing the U.S. today.

The recent flood of synthetic opioids – like Fentanyl, which is many times more potent than heroin – onto the black market has caused overdose deaths to surge.

The CDC on Wednesday noted that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids doubled between 2015 and 2016, rising to 6.2 deaths per a population of 100,000 people.

The chief of mortality statistics at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics on Wednesday said that the U.S. last experienced a consecutive drop in life expectancy in 1962 to 1963.

Dr. Bob Anderson cited a bad flu season as the cause of the phenomenon, and he said the instance before that one, in 1925 to 1926, likely stemmed from infectious disease.

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