Deaths from drug overdoses rose a staggering 21 percent in 2016 alone.

By Faith Brar
Updated: December 21, 2017
Photo: Shutterstock/Iryna Imago

The opioid epidemic is one of the biggest and most alarming problems in America today. It's gotten to the point where Walgreens has started stocking up on Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses-and CVS has said that it would stop filling prescriptions for opioid painkillers with more than a seven-day supply.

Overdose deaths have gone up 21 percent in 2016 alone, causing the U.S. life expectancy to drop for the second straight year. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released numbers putting drug-related deaths at 63,600, up from about 52,000 in 2015.

This means a baby born in the U.S. last year is expected to live about 78 years and 7 months, according to the CDC. Babies born in 2015 were expected to live about a month longer, and those born in 2014 about two months longer. This is the first time since 1962–1963 that the U.S. life expectancy has fallen in two consecutive years.

And for the first time ever, a legal yet powerful painkiller called fentanyl has played the biggest role in drug-related fatalities, surpassing deaths caused by other prescription pain pills and heroin. (Related: Hepatitis C Rates Have Tripled Due to the Opioid Crisis)

Most drug-related deaths happened in people ages 25 to 54-and from what the CDC can tell, these numbers are continuing to rise in 2017. (Did you know women may have a higher risk for addiction to painkillers?)

In October, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency-hoping to expand access to treatment and loosen regulations to fight the epidemic. But so far, little has been done when it comes to providing the resources needed to combat the problem.

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