Overdoses, suicides shorten expected lifespans in US

Some troubling trends are emerging that show the life expectancy of Americans is dropping. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the dip in our life span is tied to drug overdoses and suicides.

It is the second time in three years that the average lifespan shortened. 

James Willis, a recovery coach with Enso Behavioral Health in Tampa, helps people coming out of treatment figure out how to move forward. He hopes his line of work helps reverse the trend.

He's also celebrating his own sobriety.

"Today is my 21 years clean from all substances," said Willis. "It was challenging to get clean. I didn't know what to expect. I just know they told me to make 90 meetings in 90 days, and I did that. They said do some of the things that we do, and you'll be alright."

He hopes to help reverse a troubling trend. Thursday, the CDC released new numbers showing the average lifespan for Americans went down in 2017. Life expectancy dropped from 78.8 in 2013 to 78.6 in 2017, and researchers said the latest change is largely due to drug overdoses and suicides.

"A lot of people don't believe they matter, and they believe that the world would be a better place without them. It's not the truth," said Willis.

In Florida, the CDC found that drug overdose deaths are higher than the national rate.

"The CDC data might be right, but we're going to have to do whatever we'll have to do to prove that people's life expectancies can be long-term," said Willis.

After overcoming years of using himself, Willis said addicts find it challenging to commit to change. And that’s another reason why he’s determined to save more lives after saving his own.

"If you show them and hold their hand and meet them where they're at, usually 9 times out of 10, you'll capture people's undivided attention," said Willis.

The CDC said overdose deaths reached a new high last year, topping 70,000 people and the suicide rate went up by 3.7 percent.