Vermont overdose rates rank 22nd in nation

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Drug overdoses increased to 70,237 in 2017, compared to 63,632 the year before, the government stated in an accompanying report.

The troubling rise in suicides combined with our out-of-control opioid addiction crisis has lowered the average life expectancy of the USA population, according to a new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is the third straight year life expectancy in the USA has declined or stayed flat, reversing course after decades of improvement. CDC analysis of preliminary 2018 drug overdose figures indicates that the increase in deaths may be slowing, but it is unclear if this trend will have persisted through the rest of the year.

"Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation's overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable", Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, said in a statement Thursday.

Data released today by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics points to a continuing downward trend: life expectancy in 2017 was 78.6 years, down from 78.7 years in 2016. These synthetic opioids account for approximately double the number of deaths caused by natural and semisynthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone, which saw a leveling off in associated deaths between 2016 and 2017.

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"It's striking to see that there are more people who died of overdose in 2017 than at the peak of the HIV epidemic or the highest rates of traffic fatalities that we've seen in this country", Kathryn McHugh of Harvard Medical School tells NPR's Richard Harris.

Deaths by suicide have also spiked. In 2017, that rate had increased by 16 percent, to 11.1 deaths per 100,000. In 2016, suicide became the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 and the fourth leading cause for ages 35-54. But it is deaths in younger age groups - especially middle-aged people - that have had the biggest effect on life expectancy, experts said.

The Washington Post notes that other factors contributed to an increased death rate a year ago, including a spike in influenza deaths as well as fatalities from chronic low respiratory diseases, Alzheimer's disease and strokes. According to health reports issued recently, a person born in 2017 is expected to live up to 78.6 years old, or 1.2 months lesser that those born in 2016.

Last year, 47,000 people committed suicide, for a rate of 14.0 per 100,000 people.

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The federal report found that, nationally, there were 70,237 overdose deaths in 2017. The CDC report, "Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2017", said overdose deaths rose 10 percent a year ago.

The figures mark an "appalling performance not seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918", the Washington Post reported. That is up from 10.5 in 1999 and from 13.5 past year.

Rates in rural USA counties are almost twice as high as in urban counties, the government statisticians say. The new numbers take that through 2017.

Deaths from flu and pneumonia rose by about 6 percent. Rates also increased for all age groups studied.

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Suicide rates for males aged 10-74 were higher in 2017 than in 1999.