The advent of Covid-19 has added another deadly disease to the National Safety Council’s list of the things that are most likely to kill Americans, but another detail on the newest release of the report might even be more sobering.
Somewhat overshadowed by the pandemic, overdose deaths have once again spiked in the United States, making the lifetimes odds to die from an opioid overdose now more likely than dying from a car crash or from suicide.
This chart shows the lifetime odds of dying from selected causes in the U.S. in 2020.
The Biden administration is taking another stab at trying to tackle the ever-growing problem of opioids in the country, having released the 2022 National Drug Control Strategy on Thursday. According to a White House statement, the strategy will focus both on fighting untreated addiction and drug trafficking.
Under the first point of action, one central pillar of the administration’s strategy is expanding the use of naloxone. Sold under the brand name Narcan, it can reverse an opioid overdose when injected or sprayed up a person’s nose. Yet, the treatment is controversial, seen as suggesting a false sense of security to opioid users if it became ubiquitous.
Despite many medical services embracing naloxone, it was still not making it into communities where it was desperately needed, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.
Testing for fentanyl
Another area where access to potentially lifesaving tools is supposed to become easier under the national strategy is test strips. Facing similar accusations of encouraging drug use, the tests are able to detect substances like synthetic opioid fentanyl. Often used in counterfeit prescription pain medication or to increase the potency of illicit drugs, fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin, causing it to be linked to many overdose deaths.
To a person born in 2020 in the U.S., the probability of dying of an opioid overdose over their lifetime is one in 67 if the number of overdose deaths remained constant in the future. This is the biggest likelihood of any cause of death that is not a disease. In 2017, these odds were still 1 in 96 – behind death by suicide which has since affected a smaller share of the population. A common fear – dying by gun assault – is actually much less common at lifetime odds of 1 in 221 as of 2020.

Charted by Statista