USA TODAY | For the first time in history, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. For the first time in nearly a quarter century, U.S. life expectancy has declined, driven by diseases of despair like alcoholism and drug addiction. And for the first time in a long time, policymakers and providers are serious about trying new approaches and making a real investment in turning the tide on addiction.
The U.S. had more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016 — more people died from overdoses than those who died in motor vehicle accidents; more died than those who were killed in the 20-year Vietnam War.
It is a staggering loss of life caused by a complex epidemic. All segments of society bear responsibility: from aggressive pharmaceutical advertising with misleading information on addictive potential; to the push in the medical field, furthered by government regulation and reimbursement, to make pain a fifth vital sign; to the rise of the Mexican heroin trade that has infiltrated sleepy American towns and cities.
Solutions must be as varied as the drivers of the epidemic.
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