The Opioid Abuse Epidemic

There is not one easy solution to the opioid abuse epidemic. It’s a complex issue that requires stakeholders across government, the healthcare supply chain, public health, prevention and healthcare communities working together to provide patients, families and communities with information and tools to address the crisis.

The Facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Every day, 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose.

Prescription opioids are a driving factor in opioid overdose deaths. Prescription opioids quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, yet patients did not report a change in the amount of pain they were suffering.

Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin, quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million-people died from overdoses.1

Overprescribing and Overuse

Opioid prescribing in the U.S. hit its highest point in 2010 with providers writing more than 80 prescriptions per 100 patients.

Since 2010 the number of prescriptions has dropped more than 10 percent.

Recent government data estimate that close to 92 million people (38 percent of the U.S. population) used prescription opioids in 2014–2015.2

A recent study found that more than two-thirds of patients who undergo surgery do not use all of their painkillers, and few safely store or dispose of these medications.3


According to the latest public data, a significant number of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. Many individuals who abuse pain medicines obtained the prescription drugs from a friend or family member.

Consider these statistics:

  • Approximately 40 percent of those who misused prescription pain relievers in the past year said that they obtained the medicine from a friend or relative for free.4
  • As many as one in four people who receive prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggle with addiction.5

Our Focus: Educating about the Rights, Risks and Responsibilities of Opioid Use

Pain is a common medical problem that can be treated. The keys to getting the most benefit out of pain treatment are to learn as much as you can about any treatments your healthcare professional (HCP) prescribes, to follow their instructions and talk to your HCP or pharmacist about anything that concerns you.

If you or a loved one is currently taking prescription opioids, or if opioids are discussed or recommended as part of your treatment regime, it is important to understand your rights, risks and responsibilities.


Talk to your HCP about your pain relief options and how your opioid prescription is filled. Some states allow for partial-fill, which limits the amount of the prescription patients take home initially. Partial-fill prescription options help to limit leftover pills in circulation and minimize unnecessary opioid use.


Prescription opioids carry serious risk of dependence, addiction or overdose, especially with prolonged use. Talk to your HCP and make sure you understand these potential risks and side effects.


You can help prevent misuse and abuse by properly storing your prescription opioids in a secure place and then safely disposing of any unused medication. Opioids are powerful medicines and can be dangerous when used in ways they are not intended.


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

3 JAMA Surgery:

4 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA:

5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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