Opioid Addiction Fact Sheet

Find out the important facts about opioid addiction from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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Opioid Addiction Disease Basics

  • Opioids are any of various compounds that bind to specific receptors in the central nervous system and have analgesic (pain relieving) effects including prescription medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone and illicit substances such as heroin.
  • Opioid addiction is federally described as a progressive, treatable brain disease.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and drug use despite harmful consequence.
  • Any type of opioid can trigger latent chronic addiction brain disease.
  • 21.5 million people aged 12 or older (8.1% of the population) in 2014 had a substance use disorder in the past year.
  • 1.9 million Americans live with prescription opioid abuse or dependence, while 586,000 Americans live with heroin addiction.
  • Opioid addiction disease occurs in every American state, county, socio-economic and ethnic group.
  • 23% of heroin users develop chronic opioid addiction disease.

National Opioid Overdose Epidemic

  • 129 Americans died from overdose deaths each day in 2014.
  • 52 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses; two deaths an hour, 18,800 annually.
  • While illicit opioid heroin poisonings increased by 12.4% from 1999 to 2002, the number of prescription opioid analgesic poisonings in the United States increased by 91.2% during that same time period.
  • Drug overdose was the leading cause of accidental death in 2014, greater than car accidents and homicide.
  • About 10,574 Americans died in 2014 from heroin overdose.
  • 75 percent of heroin users started out abusing prescription opioids.
  • In 2015, about 300 million opioid pain medication prescriptions were written, enough for every adult in America to have a bottle of pills.