America’s Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic in America is a serious public health issue. The phrase “opioid crisis” or “opioid epidemic” are ones we hear often and they are used to describe the rapid increase in the use of illicit and prescription opioid drugs over the last two decades. The misuse and abuse of opioid drugs affects public health as well as the economic and social welfare of our country, and the numbers show that opioid addiction in the U.S. only continues to worsen. The following 11 statistics on opioid abuse are just a glimpse of the damage opioid addiction and misuse has caused.

Statistics on Opioid Abuse in America

  1. Drug overdoses, which are largely driven by opioids, now kill more people than breast cancer. 41,070 Americans die from breast cancer every year.1
  2. More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016.2
  3. More than six out of ten drug overdoses involve an opioid.3
  4. Deaths from prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, methadone, and oxycodone have more than quadrupled since 1999.4
  5. More than half a million people died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2015. In 2015, 91 Americans died every day from an opioid overdose.5
  6. About 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioid drugs for chronic pain misuse them.6
  7. In 2016, about 11.5 million Americans age 12 and older misused prescription pain medicine.7
  8. 80 percent of people who use heroin misused prescription opioids first.8
  9. Some carfentanil and fentanyl overdoses can be so severe that even 12, 13, or 14 hits of naloxone won’t even bring the person back.9
  10. More than 4,000 babies were born addicted to opioids in Florida in 2016. That’s an increase of over 1,000 percent from a decade ago.12
  11. The U.S. opioid epidemic resulted in $78.5 billion in economic costs in 2013.11

About Prescription Opioid Abuse and Illicit Opioid Abuse

Short-term opioid use can be great for patients recovering from surgery or experiencing severe pain due to a medical condition, but opioid drugs are not recommended for long-term use. Despite the dangers of long-term opioid use, countless people end up taking them for years to treat chronic issues like back pain. As a result, many people become addicted and some eventually transition to heroin because it is cheaper to obtain.

Abusing prescription opioid drugs carries just as many risks as illicit opioid drug use and should only ever be taken as prescribed by a doctor. Unfortunately, even a small number of individuals may become addicted to prescription opioids even when taking them as prescribed.

Prescription opioids affect the same brain systems that illicit opioid drugs like heroin and morphine do, and therefore, are dangerously addictive when misused. These drugs stimulate the reward center in the brain, and as a result, they create feelings of pleasure and well-being when they are consumed. Some people may want to intensify these feelings, so they choose to misuse the prescription opioids. Instances of misuse could include taking larger doses than prescribed, combining prescription opioid pills with other drugs or alcohol, or taking them more frequently than prescribed.

Illicit opioids like heroin are cheaper and often easier to obtain, so it’s no surprise that some people transition from prescription opioids to heroin when they can no longer get a prescription from their doctor anymore. Opioid addiction and misuse of any kind is extremely dangerous and can lead to overdose or death, especially when it involves particularly potent opioid drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine12 and a single unit of carfentanil has a potency that is 10,000 times stronger than morphine.13

Successful Treatment for Opioid Addiction Starts with Drug Detox

Opioid addiction, and addiction, in general, is defined as a chronic disease. This means it will require more than just willpower to overcome it. Many people attempt to overcome their opioid addiction several times before they are able to  successfully achieve lasting sobriety. Although opioid addiction recovery requires hard work and dedication, it is completely possible with the assistance of addiction treatment professionals, behavioral therapy, and peer support.

Before a long-term opioid drug rehab program can begin, a person who is addicted to opioid drugs must first complete a medically assisted opioid detox program. This will allow them to successfully withdrawal from whatever opioid drug(s) they are addicted to and achieve a stable state of sobriety. This is an essential part of the recovery process and should precede drug rehab.

During drug detox, addicted individuals complete an assessment that allows the medical and therapeutic team to devise an individualized treatment plan. This treatment plan will vary from that of other clients, but it will provide the best opportunity for their personal continued long-term sobriety. This treatment plan will be changed and adjusted as the client proceeds through the withdrawal and drug detox process.

Medically assisted drug detox is also much safer than detoxing from opioid drugs at home because each patient is carefully observed by a medical team of nurses and doctors at all times. Each member of the medical team is trained to recognize and treat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal so that every client has the most comfortable withdrawal experience possible. Not to mention, if the patient needs emergency medical attention, a whole team of nurses and doctors are on-site 24/7 to care for them.

Medically assisted drug detox is the first step to overcoming opioid addiction. If you or a loved one is addicted to prescription or illicit opioid drugs, there is hope for you to find freedom in sobriety. You don’t have to be part of those statistics listed above. Please call the admissions staff at Hill Country Detox to learn more about our detox center and services.



  1. http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/21/health/drug-overdoses-2016-final-numbers
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm655051e1.htm
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/analysis.html
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25785523
  7. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.pdf
  8. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DR006/DR006/nonmedical-pain-reliever-use-2013.htm
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/05/upshot/opioid-epidemic-drug-overdose-deaths-are-rising-faster-than-ever.html
  10. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/political-pulse/os-legislature-opioids-20180102-story.html
  11. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html
  12. https://www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/drug_of_abuse.pdf#page=40
  13. http://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/7-things-to-know-about-carfentanil

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