10 Facts About The Current Opiate Epidemic You Need To Know

Last Updated: April 10, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Opiate addiction – whether to prescription drugs or heroin – has a devastating and deadly impact on a person’s life. In the past several years, there has been a conscious effort to highlight the opiate epidemic, which has largely been caused by the overprescribing and abuse of pain medications.

Prescription drug use is more prevalent than ever – with 34% of American adults taking at least one prescription drug, and 11.5% taking three or more prescribed medications. In 2013, drug overdose was the leading cause of death by injury in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

History Of Prescription Drug Use

In the centuries following its discovery, opium was used for both medicinal and recreational purposes around the world.

In the 15th century, China began using opium recreationally under the misguided notion that it could provide longevity and a more vigorous sex life. It was shortly thereafter that smoking opium in tobacco pipes became a symbol of luxury and wealth.

In the 19th century, morphine was extracted from opium, playing a prevalent role in both the treatment and subsequent addiction of soldiers in the Civil War. In 1895, Bayer, a German pharmaceutical company, produced heroin with the intention of it being a less addictive form of morphine. However, a short time later, it was discovered that heroin absorbed faster and was more addicting than morphine.

Morphine, heroin, codeine, and methadone are all highly addictive derivatives of opium that were extracted and/or created with the intention of each being less harmful and addicting then its predecessor. Today, all four substances are considered the most highly abused and addictive drugs available.

10 Facts About The Current Opiate Epidemic

  1. It’s currently estimated that there are between 6 and 36 million Americans over the age of 12 suffering some form of chemical dependency with at least 2.1 million of those being addicted to opiate painkillers.
  2. In 2013, over 8,200 people died from a heroin-related overdose.
  3. Each day, approximately 44 people die in the United States from overdose of prescription painkillers.
  4. The most common drugs involved in prescription overdose deaths include: hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), oxymorphone (Opana), and methadone.
  5. Nearly half of young people who use heroin reported abusing prescription opioids before starting heroin use. In fact, four out of five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription painkillers. As a result, the rate of heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013.
  6. In a 2014 survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction, 94% of respondents said they chose to use heroin because prescription drugs were far more expensive and harder to obtain.
  7. Heroin poses additional problems for those who inject it because it increases the risk of HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and other diseases that occur from sharing needles.
  8. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic. In 2014, 18,893 overdose deaths were related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,754 overdose deaths were related to heroin.
  9. In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids. This is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.
  10. In 2014, an estimated 28,000 adolescents tried heroin in the past year, and it’s estimated that 16,000 were current heroin users.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opiate addiction, the best thing you can do is get help. Contact the Orlando Recovery Center today.