Drug Overdoses Among Top Three Causes of Injury Deaths in U.S.

Drug Overdoses Among Top Three Causes of Injury Deaths in U.S.

Guns, drug overdoses and motor vehicle crashes are the top three causes of injury-related death in the United States, according to a new study.

Researchers say those causes of injury contribute to Americans’ shorter life expectancy compared with people in 12 other wealthy countries.

The average American will die as much as two years sooner than people living in Western Europe or Japan, the study found.

More than 100,000 Americans die each year from motor vehicle traffic crashes, firearm-related injuries, and drug poisonings, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics found men in Western Europe and Japan had a life expectancy advantage of 2.2 years over American men and women.

The top three injury causes of death accounted for 1.02 years of the life expectancy gap among men. Firearm-related injuries accounted for 21 percent of the gap, drug poisonings 14 percent, and motor vehicle crashes 13 percent. Among women, these causes accounted for 0.42 years of the gap, with 4 percent from firearm-related injuries, 9 percent from drug poisonings, and 6 percent from motor vehicle crashes.

The researchers noted the higher rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States may be due in part to looser prescribing practices. Bloomberg Business reports that data from the Pain & Policies Studies Group at the University of Wisconsin show per capita opioid painkiller consumption in the United States exceeded the equivalent of 700 milligrams of morphine in 2013. In contrast, the figure for the United Kingdom was 241 milligrams and in Japan, 26 milligrams.

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