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A national crisis

The opioid crisis claims the lives of 91 Americans each day.1 That’s one person every 16 minutes. Deaths due to drug overdose have increased nearly 20 percent in the U.S from 2015 to 2016.2 Opioid overdoses now kill more people annually than car accidents or firearms.

Opioids are a necessary and useful part of treatment for some medical conditions. But these powerful narcotic painkillers come with a high risk of misuse and dependency. Today, more Americans are prescribed stronger opioids for longer periods of time than in the past. This increases their risk of developing opioid use disorder.

This epidemic is hitting especially hard among young adults age 18 to 25. They’re the biggest misusers of prescription opioids.3 And prescription-drug-related overdose deaths among this age group have quadrupled since 1999.4

Misusing opioid painkillers is often linked to later use of heroin, also a type of opioid. Nearly 80 percent of all heroin users started out misusing commonly prescribed opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine.5

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SOURCES

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding the epidemic: Drug overdose deaths in the United States continue to increase in 2015. Accessed Aug. 25, 2017
  2. Katz J. Drug deaths in America are rising faster than ever. New York Times. June 5, 2017
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Misuse of prescription drugs: Adolescents and young adults. Accessed Sept. 1, 2017
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Abuse of Prescription (Rx) Drugs Affects Young Adults Most. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/abuse-prescription-rx-drugs-affects-young-adults-most
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Heroin. drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin. Accessed Sept. 18, 2017