The Opioid Health Crisis

The world and the nation is facing an opioid epidemic ​and people are dying every day

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic with every American state, county, socio-economic and ethnic group impacted.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Killing more people than car accidents and guns – 63,600 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. Opioids account for more than 66% of all overdose deaths – killing more than 42,000 people in 2016.

A brief history of opiates / opioids

​Derived from the Opium Poppy Plant

  • Has legitimate medical use
  • High potential for addiction and abuse and overdose 36 million abuse opioids worldwide
  • 36 million abuse/misuse opioids worldwide
  • 10.3 million Americans reported non-medical use of prescription opioids
  • America is 5% of the world’s population. Yet consumes 80% of the global opioid supply.
  • 1 in 4 long-term, noncancer opioid users struggle with addiction

Sources: SAMSHA 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the World Drug Report 2015

Opium Poppy Plant
Opioid dependence occurs in every American State, County, socio-economic and ethnic group.

Types of opioids

Natural Types of Opioids
Semi Synthetic Opioids
Fully Synthetic Opioids

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. In fact, as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction.

Because prescription opioids are similar to, and act on the same brain systems affected by, heroin and morphine, they present an intrinsic abuse and addiction liability, particularly if they are used for non-medical purposes.  They are most dangerous and addictive when taken via methods that increase their euphoric effects (the “high”), such as crushing pills and then snorting or injecting the powder, or combining the pills with alcohol or other drugs.


​Opioid prescribing rates key contributor to health crisis

Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than 1999. From 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids.

Each day, 44 people die from an overdose of prescription pain medicine in the US.

Health care providers wrote 214 million prescriptions for pain medicine in 2016, nearly enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

There has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report, yet the amount of prescription painkillers dispensed in the U.S. quadrupled since 1999.

A recent CDC report reviewed the 2016 opioid prescribing practices across the nation.

Finding that healthcare providers wrote 214 million prescriptions for pain medicine in 2016. Nearly enough for every American adult to have a prescription.

​For Overdose Lifeline’s home state of Indiana for every 100 people, 84 pain medicine prescriptions were written. States with the highest opioid prescribing rates were Alabama (121), Arkansas, (114.6), Tennessee (107.5), and Mississippi (105.6) per 100 people.

States with the lowest opioid prescribing rates were Minnesota (46.9), California (44.8), New York (42.7), Hawaii (41.9), and District of Columbia (32.5).

Source: CDC Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes, 2017

Heroin use is part of a larger substance abuse problem

People who are addicted to…

…more likely to be addicted to heroin.

– Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH 2011-2013)

Heroin use has increased among most demographic groups

  • Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive opioid drug.
  • A heroin overdose can cause slow and shallow breathing, coma, and death.
  • People often use heroin along with other drugs or alcohol. This practice is especially dangerous because it increases the risk of overdose.
  • Heroin is typically injected but is also smoked or snorted.
  • When people inject heroin, they are at risk of serious, long-term viral infections such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and Hepatitis B, as well as bacterial infections of the skin, bloodstream, and heart.

Source: CDC Vital Signs

Heroin Addictions