Can Opioid Overdose Reduce Life Expectancy?

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In the final days of 2016, the world lost yet another beloved celebrity: Carrie Fischer. Fischer, famous for her reprising role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, was open about her addictions, alcoholism, and struggles with mental health. The star, who had been sober for many years, passed of a heart attack. Immediately, questions arose about whether or not Fischer’s weakened heart had anything to do with her years of substance abuse, despite her years of sobriety and good health. A combination of factors are likely to have led to Fischer’s considerably early passing, but substance abuse cannot be ruled out.

Recently, the Centers For Disease Control released information which revealed that for the first time since 1993, during the AIDS epidemic, the life expectancy for those in the United States has dropped. Thankfully, the damage is not severe- the life expectancy was reduced only by about a month. However, the change is significant and worrisome considering the steady rise the life expectancy rate has seen in recent years. According to VOA News, “deaths from prescription opioids quadrupled in less than 20 years. More than 183,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids since 1999.” Heroin and fentanyl have become leading killers in the opioid epidemic as those who become addicted to prescription painkillers find themselves purchasing these cheaper narcotic drugs. 2016 saw the rise of fentanyl and daily opioid overdose deaths. The synthetic opioid can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Long Term Health Effects Of Opioids

Opioid overdose notoriously happens in the heart. Slowing down the heart rate to a stop, when someone is unconscious from opioid overdose, they are not alert enough to notice a problem. Surviving opioid overdose is possible and many do, finally deciding to get sober after their near brush with death. However, continual abuse of opioids and the experience of overdose weakens the heart muscles over time. Infections and illnesses caused by dirty needles, infected abscesses, and more can also lead to long term problems with the immune system.

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