What is an opioid?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, as well as prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others. These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain.4

What is the impact of opioid MISUSE in the United States?

The U.S. is experiencing an opioid epidemic, as more than 2 million Americans have become dependent on, or abused prescription pain pills and street drugs.5 The number of overdose deaths related to heroin, for example, increased 533% between 2002 and 2016.6

The impact of opioid abuse is significant among a wide range of populations. Most adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers are given them for free by a friend or relative.7 According to the CDC (2013), women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription pain relievers at higher doses, and use them for longer than men.8 Between 1999 and 2015, the death rate from prescription opioid overdoses increased 471% among women, compared to an increase of 218% among men.9

Who does misuse affect?

Substance misuse has an effect not only on substance users, but also on their families and their peers. In particular, it is important to keep in mind the complex role that family members play in substance dependence. The assistance they provide is multifaceted, including direct care, financial assistance, and management of illness symptoms, as well as directly helping their relatives’ engagement and treatment retention. Family members and friends can play a large support role throughout the recovery process. However, it is also often challenging to manage the consequences of addictive behavior.