12,210 years of life lost: The high cost of Dayton area’s drug problem

Drugs have wiped out more than 12,210 years of potential life in Montgomery County, according to a new report.

Heart disease and cancer kill far more people in the county than drug poisonings, but drug deaths are killing younger people.

On average, residents who succumb to those diseases are in their 70s or lolder. People killed by drugs on average are 30 years younger, according to a special report by Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County.

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Dying prematurely, from the preventable cause of a drug overdose, means that some people lose out on decades of potential life.

Fatal drug poisonings in Montgomery County wiped out 12,210 years of potential life between 2014 and 2015, according to the public health report.

Years of potential life is a measure created to try to illustrate the economic and social costs of premature death.

Death in old age is inevitable — but death before old age usually is not and it is imperative to address the root causes of drug abuse and addiction, experts say.

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Everyone dies, and the biggest factor for dying is a person’s age, said Sara Paton, associate professor and epidemiologist with the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.

“Every year you get older, your risk of death goes up,” she said.

The population is aging and is older than it has been in the past, because of healthier living choices and medical advances, experts said. In the county, the gap between the crude birth and death rates has been shrinking.

The closing gap is a national phenomenon.

There is a decline in the number of women in child-bearing years while there is an increase in the older population due to the baby-boom years, said Mark J. Salling, senior fellow and research associate in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

The baby boomers are starting to die off and there are fewer women in the child-bearing years, which is roughly between the ages of 16 to 39, he said.

But there are some worrying trends locally.

Between 2014 and 2015, heart disease killed 2,677 people in Montgomery County and cancer killed 2,468 people — way more than the 528 people who died of drug poisoning, according to the special report by public health.

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But on average, people who died of heart disease were 75.6 years old, and people killed by cancer were 71.6 years old, the report states. Victims of drug poisonings were 41.5 years old on average.

In Montgomery County, the death rate has risen for people ages 15 to 64, driven in large part by drug overdoses. For people 65 and older, the death rate has decreased.

“While the death rate is falling in the older age range, it is rising in the younger age range tied to the opioid stuff,” said Richard Stock, director of the business research group at the University of Dayton.

People do die earlier than they would otherwise because of disease. But they tend to be older and closer to the end of their lives.

Drug poisonings are a far more likely to cut short people’s lives by decades. Drugs were responsible for 12,210 years of potential life loss.

The potential years of life loss for 2014 and 2015 was 7,175 years for heart disease and 6,785 years for cancer.

There are no easy solutions to the deadly opioid crisis in the region. Many different groups have partnered together to try to attack the problem from multiple angles.

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The community is not very healthy, because of obesity, drug use and other factors, and prevention is key because it is far better and easier to preserve one’s health rather than treat one’s diseases, Paton said.

“There’s a good quote out there: ‘Your greatest wealth is your health,” she said.

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