REALity December, 2018
Opioid Crisis Shortens National Life Expectancy
“Deaths by despair” is a synonym for the opioid crisis: it is causing life expectancy in Canada to fall.
This was the conclusion of a paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (April 2018 issue) which claimed that Canada’s life expectancy is being affected by opioid deaths.
In 2017, the opioid crisis caused the deaths of 4,000 individuals in Canada. Deaths have also been due to alcohol related causes, such as an increase in cirrhosis of the liver, and to suicides. The average Canadian lifespan is 82 years, but this is up only slightly from 81 years in 2006. Canada’s current ranking in life expectancy is two notches lower than it was a decade ago.
Medical literature informs us that people who are depressed are more likely to be prescribed opioids. But, people who are prescribed opioids are also more likely to become depressed! Since two-thirds of opioid overdoses involve prescription medications, physicians should be aware of this pattern before prescribing opioids.
This link between mental health disorders and substance abuse is well documented. According to a new study, in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology,
(October 3, 2018) for every additional 1% of the population with a depression diagnosis, there is a 25-35% increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths.
Deaths by opioid, alcohol abuse, and suicide are deaths caused by despair. These deaths disproportionately occur among men who are divorced or never married and individuals from rural areas with a high school education.
This development paints a disturbing picture of a social and spiritual crisis today. Despair can be caused by many factors, including chronic unemployment, loneliness and failure to fit in to our technological society. Why are these men experiencing such despair leading them to turn to drugs, alcohol and suicide for solace and escape? Why do our social services not reach out more to these individuals? Why are mental health and drug treatment beds not more plentiful? Instead, society leaves individuals to their despair by providing them with even more spaces in drug injection sites to inject their drugs.
It also seems that Canada is paying a large social price for the widespread collapse of values, such as marriage and family, which is leading many men to bear the brunt of this crisis.