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January 14, 2019

Americans more likely to die of overdose than car crash, new report finds

The risk of dying by drug overdose is higher than ever, report finds

Addiction Death
Opioids pills needles Source/


For the first time on record, your odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are greater than dying in a car crash, according to a new report on preventable deaths from the National Safety Council.

Americans now have a 1-in-96 chance of dying from an opioid overdose, according to the council's analysis of 2017 data on preventable death. The probability of losing one's life in a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 103.

Two medical issues carry the highest odds of dying: heart disease with a 1-in-6 risk and cancer at 1-in-7 risk, according to the report.

RELATED READ: Cancer deaths on a steady 25-year decline in United States

It's worth noting that the odds given in the NSC report are statistical averages over the whole U.S. population and do not necessarily reflect the chances of death for a particular person from a particular cause. Additionally, they are lifetime odds, based on dividing the one-year odds by the life expectancy of a person born in 2017, CNN reports. 

The odds of dying from other events include 1 in 88 for suicide, 1 in 258 for a gun assault and 1 in 218,106 for a lightning strike. 

In 2017, preventable injury deaths numbered 169,936 — an increase of 5.3 percent from 2016, and a 96-percent increase compared to 1992 data, according to CNN.

In 2018, unintentional injury was found to be the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 61,000 deaths of people aged 1 to 44 in 2016 — nearly twice as many as from cancer and heart disease combined, CNN reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these deaths were predominantly a result of motor vehicle accidents and unintentional poisonings.

"The nation's opioid crisis is fueling the Council's grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl," the council said in a statement released Monday, NPR reports.

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December, fentanyl is now the drug most often responsible for drug overdose deaths. And while reported deaths of fentanyl and other opioids are high, a 2018 study found that opioid-related overdoses may have been under-counted by as much as 35 percent.

Of course, there is no “convenient” time for death, but Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council, noted that that accidental deaths usually affect people in the "core of their life," with greater financial and emotional ramifications than deaths of those in their later years, NPR reports.

Now that the likelihood of overdose has been quantified, the council has recommended tackling the epidemic by increasing pain management training for opioid prescribers, making the potentially-lifesaving drug naloxone more widely available and expanding access to addiction treatment.

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