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Updated: Nov 7, 2019

The opioid epidemic and substance use disorders are a public health crisis that is devastating our country? The misuse of and addiction to opioids, including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as: fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, codeine, morphine, and methadone is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic wellbeing. When taken as directed and for a short period of time, opioids can manage pain effectively. With long-term use, people need to be screened and monitored because a fraction of those treated will develop an addiction disorder, abuse the drugs, or give them to others. According to Kessler, et al, 2005, 1 in 7 people will develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that in 2017 an estimated 21 million Americans, more than the number of people who have all cancers combined, suffered from a substance use disorder involving alcohol or drugs, of which only 4 million received treatment, that is approximately 19% of those who needed it.

​About 48,000 US drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2017. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Co-prescribing it is recommended for patients at risk for opioid overdose. However, not enough of the drug is being prescribed.

Major changes in opioid and naloxone dispensing occurred from 2017 to 2018.

Source: Vital Signs MMWR, August 2019


The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services lists the following as the opioid epidemic in numbers:

  • 80% -- Nearly 80% of heroin users reported misusing prescription opioids prior to heroin.

  • 130+ -- 130+ people a day die from opioid-related drug overdoses.

  • 14,000+ -- There are 14,000+ substance abuse facilities in the U.S.

"The way we as a society view and address opioid use disorder must change—individual lives and the health of our nation depend on it" Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. U.S. Surgeon General, May 14, 2019


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