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Fewer pills should top New Year's resolutions list

New Year's resolutions are as close as some of us get to admitting we're not perfect.

For many, the beginning of each year is a time of self-assessment. Many of us will create a list of things we can increase -- like exercise -- or decrease and eliminate -- like smoking and huffing bacon bits.

It can be a constructive exercise. It can also be a way to obtain an expensive gym membership you never use.

According to a new Marist poll , the top resolutions for 2018 are to "be a better person" and "lose weight."

Both of those sound great, but they're the same self-improvement goals as last year, which suggests Americans may not have gotten nicer and skinnier in 2017.

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A less constructive, but more entertaining, exercise, is to create a list of New Year's resolutions for other people.

Friends and family love it when you dissect their lives and suggest improvements. Crankier friends may even return the favor and point out stuff you are doing wrong. "Stop making these lists" has been suggested to me more than once.

Almost everyone wants to get healthier and live longer.

But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta, life expectancy for Americans has fallen for the second year in a row. We've lost about five weeks in back-to-back years. At this rate, none of us will live long enough to collect Social Security before it goes bankrupt, which may be the plan.

A baby born in the U.S. in 2016 is now expected to live about 78 years and 7 months, on average, the CDC said. But if you look a little deeper at the info it says the life expectancy for women is not declining, just men. That increases the gender gap to five years; about 76 for men and 81 for women.

The Washington Post says the life expectancy "drops coincided with an average annual increase in opioid-related overdose deaths of about 20 percent" and "early signs are that drug-related deaths continued to climb in 2017, which could contribute to a third straight year of falling life expectancy, something that hasn’t happened since the Spanish flu swept the country a century ago."

Older people are living longer. Younger people are dying sooner.

Why? Drug overdoses and suicides.

Georgia stands among the top 11 states in the country with the most prescription opioid overdose deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health . This summer, dozens of people were hospitalized and at least five Georgians died after fake Percocet pills were distributed in Middle Georgia. No arrests have been made in the overdose outbreak.

Death rates decreased for seven of the 10 leading causes of death, but rose for suicide, Alzheimer’s disease and for a category called unintentional injuries which includes drug overdoses.

In 2016, 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. That's more than gun homicides and car crashes combined.

The surge in overdose deaths is easily explained. Drugs have grown far more powerful and they're easier than ever to get. In the 1980s, doctors began writing more prescriptions for pain killers and pharmaceutical companies began ramping up production -- and marketing -- of highly addictive opioids like OxyContin. By 2012,  doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers , enough to give a bottle of the pills to every adult in the country.

I can't prescribe a New Year's resolution for America that says "fewer pills," but the next time we see our doctors, maybe together we all can.

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