Opioid Addiction Fact Sheet

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

Opioid Addiction Fact Sheet

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.

Public Health Special-Populations Impact

Adolescents (12 to 17 years old)

  • Every day, 2,500 American youth abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time.
  • Nearly 1 in 20 high school seniors has taken Vicodin, 1 in 30 has abused OxyContin.
  • Over 50% of individuals 12 years or older used pain relievers nonmedically from a friend or relative.
  • Adolescent abuse of prescription drugs is frequently associated with other risky behavior, including abuse of other drugs and alcohol.
  • The number of opioids prescribed to adolescents and young adults (ages 15 to 29) nearly doubled between 1994 and 2007.
  • In 2014, an estimated 28,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, and an estimated 16,000 were current heroin users. Additionally, an estimated 18,000 adolescents had a heroin use disorder in 2014.


  • Prescription opioid overdose caused five times as many women’s deaths in 2010 than in 1999. 48,000 women died of prescription pain reliever overdoses between 1999 and 2010.
  • In 2010, more than 6,600 women died from prescription painkiller overdoses (18 each day).
  • Every three minutes, a woman goes to the emergency department for prescription painkiller misuse or abuse.
  • Prescription pain reliever overdose deaths among women increased more than 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared to 237% among men.
  • Heroin overdose deaths among women have tripled from 2010 to 2013. From 2010 through 2013, female heroin overdoses increased from 0.4 to 1.2 per 100,000.

Fact sheet provided by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

Learn more about The National Night of Conversation.

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Do you know everything you need to about drugs in order to start a productive conversation with your family? Learn more here. 

Prescription medication can be the stepping stone to substance abuse. Learn all the information on prescription medication so you can be informed when you or a family member goes the doctor. 

If you or someone you know needs help with and addiction problem, find out the recovery resources that are available

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