Drug and alcohol addiction can cause health complications, overdose and rapid deterioration of the body’s functions, resulting in long-term illness and early death.

Article at a Glance:

  • Addiction to drugs or alcohol reduces life expectancy.
  • Opioids, alcohol and psychostimulants like meth can be highly lethal.
  • More than 90,000 Americans died due to drug overdose in 2020.
  • Alcohol contributes to more than 95,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

How the Opioid Crisis Impacts American Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy in the United States has dropped in the last year and a half. While the pandemic is partially to blame, another significant factor is the nationwide opioid addiction crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that between May 2019 and May 2020, overdose death rates rose to the highest level ever recorded in a 12-month span. This staggering statistic reveals how devastating the opioid addiction continues to be in the United States.

Life Expectancy By Drug Type

What is the life expectancy of an opioid user? 

  • In the U.S. in 2019, opioid overdose deaths accounted for:
    • 3,683 people aged 24 or younger
    • 13,309 people aged 25–34
    • 12,425 people aged 35–44
    • 10,015 people aged 45–54
    • 9,290 people aged 55 or older

What is the life expectancy of a meth user?

What is the life expectancy of an alcohol user?

  • Alcohol use contributes to around 95,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
  • These alcohol-related deaths reduce lifespan by an average of 29 years.

The Impact of Substance Use on a Drug User’s Life Expectancy

Over 90,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2020. By comparison:

Drug overdose deaths in 2020 were deadlier than any of these tragic national events.

The Continuing Opioid Crisis in the U.S.

Opioids continue to play a detrimental role in lowering the lifespans of people who struggle with addiction. Consider the following statistics and how opioids put millions of Americans at risk each day:

Get Help for Drug Addiction Now

Addiction can be difficult to recover from alone, but help is available at The Recovery Village. Our comprehensive drug addiction rehab services begin with medical detox, which helps clients overcome uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Clients then move on to the intensive treatment phase and receive therapy, counseling and ongoing support as they learn how to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. Our medical experts are also able to address any co-occurring disorders that may be present, such as anxiety or depression.

If you or someone you love is struggling with drugs or alcohol, The Recovery Village is here to help you begin the recovery journey. Contact us today to speak with a representative and learn more about treatment programs that can work well for you.

Jonathan Strum
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Paula Holmes
Medically Reviewed By – Paula Holmes, LCSW
Paula Holmes is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and freelance writer who lives and works in midcoast Maine. She received her master's degree in Social Work in 2008 from the University of Maine. Read more

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Overdose Deaths Accelerating During Covid-19.” December 17, 2020. Accessed October 16, 2021.

KFF. “Opioid Overdose Deaths by Age Group.” 2019. Accessed October 16, 2021.

Calcaterra, Susan; et al. “National trends in psychostimulant-related deaths: 1999-2009.” Substance Abuse, 2013. Accessed October 16, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Deaths for Excessive Alcohol Use in the U.S.” January 14, 2021. Accessed October 16, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Vital Statistics Rapid Release: Provisio[…]verdose Death Counts.” October 13, 2021. Accessed October 16, 2021.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Opioid Crisis Statistics.” February 12, 2021. Accessed October 16, 2021.

National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. “Drug Abuse Statistics.” Accessed October 16, 2021.

National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. “Opioid Epidemic: Addiction Statistics.” Accessed October 16, 2021.

Gramlich, John. “What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, August 16, 2019. Accessed October 22, 2021.

Holmes, Steven. “AIDS Deaths in U.S. Drop by Nearly Half As Infections Go On.” The New York Times, October 8, 1998. Accessed October 22, 2021.

National Archives. “Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualty Statistics.” January 2018. Accessed October 22, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.