The Opioid Epidemic

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, "overdose deaths, particularly from prescription drugs and heroin, have reached epidemic levels." Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved prescription opioids. From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales, and substance abuse treatment admissions related to opioid pain relievers all increased substantially. By 2015, annual overdose deaths from heroin alone surpassed deaths from both car accidents and guns, with other opioid overdose deaths also on the rise.

The Statistics

As of 2015 and according to the National Vital Statistics System, those falling victim to opioid overdose-related deaths have become younger, between the ages of 25 to 34 years old. In 1999, the predominant age group of these types of deaths belong to 35-44 year old users. However, in 2015 these deaths had become more evenly spread over all age groups, ranging from infants to seniors.

In terms of the opioid-based drugs causing the overdoses, the United States has a seen a drastic rise in the use of both prescription and illicit opioid drugs since 1999. However, the predominant gender of both prescription and illicit drug use has and continues to be males, with a more drastic difference in the gender of users of illicit opioids.


Deaths per day is too many.

On average, there are 91 opioid overdose deaths per day in the United States.

In the event of an overdose, the administration of Naloxone, known by the common brand name Narcan, can save an addict's life. It is a medication designed to reverse the harmful effects of opioid overdose, from drugs such as heroin, hydrocodone, morphine, and more. According to AddictionCenter, "81.6 percent of reported naloxone reversals involved heroin. Prescription opioids were involved in 14.1 percent of cases."

You can learn more about Naloxone and how to use it here.

It is important to know the signs of overdose in order to help someone before it is too late. Common symptoms include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Unconsciousness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Extreme sleepiness (also know as nodding off)
  • Unresponsive

Different Types of Opioids

& their tendency to kill...

Opioid Overdose Deaths

LocationOverdose Deaths

Notes: 'Natural' includes natural and semisynthetic opioids, like oxycodone and hydrocodone. 'Synthetic' includes opioids like fentanyl and tramadol, but not methadone. 'Methadone' and 'Heroin' are for deaths related to solely those drugs. Deaths due to multiple types of opioids are reported in every category of drug involved. Deaths from legally and illegally produced fentanyl are included in the data as the two are indistinguishable.

NSD = Not Sufficient Data due to data suppression to ensure confidentiality.