HEALTH

Life expectancy and drug overdose rates rose in 2022

Mar 25, 2024, 7:07 PM | Updated: 7:11 pm

A syringe inserted into a bottle....

A syringe inserted into a bottle. Although Americans are living longer, the rise in drug overdose deaths has experts concerned. (Science Photo Library/Getty Images/FILE)

(Science Photo Library/Getty Images/FILE)

SALT LAKE CITY — Life expectancy in the United States saw a rise in 2022. Americans are living an additional 1.1 years on average, according to CDC data. However, there’s another metric that has experts concerned, a rise in drug overdose deaths.

Life expectancy rates

Life expectancy at birth in 2022 “was 77.5 years, an increase of 1.1 years from 2021,” according to data from the CDC.

Both men and women added about a year to their life expectancy, with men at 74.8 years of life expectancy and women at 80.2.

Drug overdose deaths

CDC data also shows drug overdose deaths in the United States increased from 2021 to 2022 in adults older than 34, while decreasing in young adults and teens younger than 34.

Tricia Bishop, overdose prevention coordinator with the Utah Department of Health, said Covid shutdowns likely added to the increase in drug overdoses.

“We had to confine ourselves to our homes, and I think we saw mental health [issues] increase… I think that potentially led to more people using drugs or potentially overusing drugs to the point of overdose,” Bishop said.

Drug overdoses have increased dramatically since 2002, rising from 0.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2002 to 22.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2022. Sharp spikes in deaths rates occured in 2016 and the pandemic years of 2019-2022.

Bishop says the sharp increase in overdoses over the past two decades is largely caused by fentanyl. Fentanyl is often mixed into drugs, then taken by unknowing users.

“Fentanyl is here, and we are seeing a lot of our fatal overdose deaths being caused by fentanyl… being mixed into drugs that people are using,” she said.

How Utah is working against drug overdoses

In an effort to curb the number of overdose deaths in the state, Bishop says there are several programs that have been helping to save lives. The programs include:

  • Naloxone request programs for agencies
    • Distribues naloxone to local health departments for individuals
    • Distributes to veterans associations and unhoused associations
  • Syringe exchange programs
  • Fentanyl/Xylazine test strip distribution
  • 988 Suicide crisis line
  • Never Use Alone Hotline 
    • 877-696-1996

In 2023, agencies distributed over 9,000 naloxone kits to community members. The Salt Lake County Health Department received almost 3,000 kits. Utah Naloxone sent around 1,500 kits to the University of Utah extension heart program.

“We are seeing some improvements,” said Bishop. “Utah is doing a really good job when it comes to preventing overdose deaths.”

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Life expectancy and drug overdose rates rose in 2022