For someone born in 2017, the odds they'll die of an overdose on an opioid drug—including heroin, prescription painkillers, and certain street drugs—are higher than for any other cause of unintentional, preventable deaths in the United States, according to new work from the National Safety Council.
The council is a non-profit organization that publishes statistics on preventable deaths in the U.S. every year. That means deaths that aren't due to natural causes, such as disease, or intentional harm, such as homicide or suicide. This is the first time the council has found opioid overdoses to be the leading accidental killer among those born in the year it's analyzing. The numbers are yet another sign of the toll that drug overdoses is taking in the U.S. For example, drug overdoses have been the top accidental killer of Americans for several years now.
Many drugs contribute to overdose deaths, but, currently, opioids are the most commonly involved. The new potency and unpredictability of street drugs has also made them especially deadly.
Other likely causes of accidental death that the National Safety Council identified were falls among the elderly and motor vehicle crashes, which for generations was the largest contributor to accidental deaths in the U.S.