The Opioid Crisis
In 2017 more than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is an average of one death every ten minutes. Among the more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2017*, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids) with nearly 30,000 overdose deaths.
The opioid epidemic has its roots in the explosive growth of prescription painkillers. Between 1991 and 2011, the number of opioid prescriptions (selling under brand names like Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet) supplied by American retail pharmacies increased from 76m to 219m. As the number of pain pills being doled out by doctors increased, so did their potency. In 2002 one in six users took a pill more powerful than morphine. By 2012 it was one in three.
Of people entering treatment for heroin substance use disorder who began abusing opioids in the 1960s, more than 80 percent started with heroin. Of those who began abusing opioids in the 2000s, 75 percent reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug.
Someone addicted to opioid painkillers is 40 times more likely to abuse or develop a substance abuse disorder to heroin than non-opioid users.
Heroin Users First Abused Prescription Drugs
Prescription Opioids Responsible For Opioid Deaths
Americans Addicted To Opioids
Increase In Fentanyl Related Deaths
Global Hydrocodone Consumed By United States