Opioid Epidemic And Addiction Facts and Education

At the Zac43 Foundation we know that education and information regarding addiciton can be a huge help with families and loved ones of addicts. That is why our addiction support organization offers a variety of resources about opioid addiction like how to find the right rehab center, stage an intervention or find a sober living facility.


Issues of the opioid epidemic according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.1 The misuse of and addiction to opioids, including prescription pain relievers,heroin,​ and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl​ are a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total "economic burden" of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.​2


How did this happen?

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.​3,4 ​ Opioid overdose rates began to increase. In 2017, more than 72,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.​That same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders(SUD) related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 652,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (not mutually exclusive).​5

What do we know about the opioid crisis?

  • Approximately 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.​6

  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.​6

  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin. ​79

  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.​7

  • Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.​10

  • The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.​10

  • Opioid overdoses in large cities increase by 54 percent in 16 states.​10


The opioid epidemic has become a public health crisis with devastating consequences including:


-Increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses.

-Rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome ​due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy. 

-The increase in injection drug use has also contributed to the spread of infectious diseases including HIV and hepatitis C.​ 

As seen throughout the history of medicine, science can be an important part of the solution in resolving such a public health crisis.11


  1. CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics Syste​            m,​ Mortality. CDC WONDER, Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2018. https://wonder.cdc.go​            v.​

  2. Florence CS, Zhou C, Luo F, Xu L. The Economic Burden of Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse, and Dependence in the United States, 2013. Med Care​ ​. 2016;54(10):901-906.


  3.   Morone NE, Weiner DK. Pain as the fifth vital sign: exposing the vital need for pain education.

       Clin Ther​. 2013;35(11):1728-1732. doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2013.10.001.

  4. Van Zee A. The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy. Am J Public Health​ ​. 2009;99(2):221-227.                           doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.131714.

   5.Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ). 2017​ National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables​. Rockville, MD: Substance              Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2018.

  6. Vowles KE, McEntee ML, Julnes PS, Frohe T, Ney JP, van der Goes DN. Rates of opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction in chronic pain: a systematic review         and data synthesis. Pain​ ​.

       2015;156(4):569-576. doi:10.1097/01.j.pain.0000460357.01998.f1.

  7. Muhuri PK, Gfroerer JC, Davies MC. Associations of Nonmedical Pain Reliever Use and Initiation of Heroin Use in the United States. CBHSQ Data Rev​ ​.             August 2013.

  9. Cicero TJ, Ellis MS, Surratt HL, Kurtz SP. The Changing Face of Heroin Use in the United States: A Retrospective Analysis of the Past 50 Years. JAMA                 Psychiatry​ ​. 2014;71(7):821-826.


  10. Carlson RG, Nahhas RW, Martins SS, Daniulaityte R. Predictors of transition to heroin use among initially non-opioid dependent illicit pharmaceutical               opioid users: A natural history study. Drug Alcohol Depend​ ​. 2016;160:127-134. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.12.026.

  11.Vivolo-Kantor, AM, Seth, P, Gladden, RM, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in Emergency Department​    Visits for Suspected Opioid Overdoses--United States,               July 2016-September 2017​. Centers for

       Disease Control and Prevention


Heroin Addiction

According to the CDC, heroin addiction is a major health crisis happening across the United States. Due to the drug’s similarities to prescription opioids, and affordability in comparison, this deadly substance has become a leading drug of abuse. Heroin and other opioids are derivatives of opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Other than heroin, some commonly abused opioids include morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, meperidine, methadone, and oxycodone. The euphoric effects and the false sense of well-being temporarily produced by heroin and other opioids are large contributors to addiction. Heroin is widely available on the street and just one use can put someone on the rapid path to addiction.

What Makes Heroin so Addictive?

The CDC reports that, heroin abuse produces high levels of tolerance very quickly, meaning that it impacts brain functioning much faster than most other drugs. As soon as someone starts abusing heroin, they will begin to build a tolerance to the drug. Once a tolerance has developed, it will take increased amounts of the drug to produce the same desired effects. Achieving a level of euphoria through heroin becomes much more difficult as the substance abuse persists.

Eventually, a heroin user must continue to abuse the drug simply to avoid the dangerous and highly unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. This indicates that an addiction to heroin has formed. 

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