Giving Compass' Take:

• Drug-related deaths hit 9% in 2016, up from about 4% about two decades prior, but new research suggests the true number is actually more than double that.

• How will this research help to paint a broad picture and get at the true extent of the drug epidemic in the United States?

• Read about the opportunity for private philanthropy to help address drug addiction.

“It’s obvious that the drug epidemic is a major American disaster,” says Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology and member of the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “The basic records being kept are annual reports on the number of deaths from drug overdose. But that’s only part of the picture.”

Among this group of Americans in 2016, 63,000 deaths attributed to drug-related causes—mostly poisonings—but Preston and coauthor Dana Glei from Georgetown University estimate that the overall number of drug-associated deaths is far higher: around 142,000.

They also found that, on average, drug use decreased life expectancy after age 15 by 1.4 years for men and by 0.7 years for women—figures that more than doubled for the hardest-hit state, West Virginia.

“The drug epidemic is probably killing a lot more Americans than we think,” says Glei, a senior research investigator in Georgetown’s Center for Population and Health. “That’s the main point we’re trying to make.”

Read the full article about drug death stats by Michele Berger at Futurity.