Americans more likely to die from opioid overdose than in a car accident
For the first time on record, Americans are more likely to die of an accidental opioid overdose than in a motor vehicle crash, according to a new report from the National Safety Council.
The group calculates that the chance of dying from an opioid overdose has increased to 1 in 96, surpassing the odds of dying in a car accident, at 1 in 103. It's also greater than the odds of dying from a fall, a gun assault, pedestrian accident, or drowning.
"The opioid crisis remains an abstract issue for many people; they still believe it will not happen to them, or it isn't a risk facing them or their family," Maureen Vogel, spokeswoman for the National Safety Council, told CBS News. "These numbers show the gravity of the problem our country is facing. We need to reprioritize and regroup, because all these deaths are preventable."
Each day more than 130 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report finding the number of drug overdose deaths among middle-aged women skyrocketed between 1999 and 2017, with opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, being the main driver. Deaths from prescription and illicit opioids in children and teens also tripled over the same time period, according to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open.
Data reported last year showed drug overdoses killed more Americans in 2016 than the Vietnam War, with three-quarters of those deaths caused by opioids.
The National Safety Council recommends a number of steps for tackling the problem of opioid misuse: increasing access to addiction treatment; making naloxone (also known as Narcan), a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, more readily available; and increasing training in pain-management for opioid prescribers.
Overall, heart disease and cancer continue to be the leading causes of death for Americans — accounting for 1 in 6 and 1 in 7 deaths, respectively. But the report also found that falls are killing more Americans than ever before. The lifetime risk of dying from an accidental fall are now 1 in 114, up from 1 in 119 just a year ago.
"These numbers underscore that too many Americans worry about the wrong things," Vogel said. "We tend to fret over headline-grabbing catastrophes like plane crashes and earthquakes, and those are terrifying incidents. But when it comes to everyday, routine activities, the odds are not in our favor."
The risk of death from other types of much-feared disasters are much lower, the report found. For example, the odds of dying in a cataclysmic storm are 1 in 31,394, while the chances of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 188,364.
The report notes that the odds calculated are statistical averages over the whole U.S. population and do not necessarily reflect the chances of death for a particular person. A person's individual risk of dying from various causes is, of course, affected by factors such as where they live and drive, the activities in which they participate, and the kind of work they do.
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