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Fast Facts on the Opioid Epidemic

The cost of the country’s opioid crisis is estimated to have exceeded $1 trillion from 2001 to 2017 and is projected to cost an additional $500 billion by 2020.

Nationally, some studies show that about 25 percent of people entering local jails are addicted to opioids.

As many as 90 percent of people who most need drug rehab do not receive it.

The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by doctors steadily increased from 112 million prescriptions in 1992 to a peak of 282 million in 2012. The number of prescriptions dispensed has since declined, falling to 236 million in 2016. In 2017, however, there were still almost 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans. More than 17 percent of Americans had at least one opioid prescription filled, with an average of 3.4 opioid prescriptions dispensed per patient.

20 to 30 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain will misuse them. About 80 percent of people who use heroin began by first misusing prescription opioids.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2017. The sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids) with nearly 30,000 overdose deaths.

The Midwestern region, the hardest hit, saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.

The number of overdose deaths related to heroin increased 533 percent between 2002 and 2016, from an estimated 2,089 in 2002 to 13,219 in 2016. In 2017 deaths from all opioids including opioid analgesics, along with heroin and illicit synthetic opioids was 49,068. From 2002-2017 there was a 4.1-fold increase in the total number of deaths.

Illicitly produced fentanyl has been a driving factor in the number of overdose deaths in recent years. Fentanyl is so strong that it can easily cause an accidental overdose. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. About two milligrams of fentanyl – equivalent to six or seven grains of salt – is a lethal dose. A new variation of fentanyl is finding its way into the drug trade. Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fenatanyl, which makes it 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

The rate of overdose deaths involving fentanyl or one of its analogs doubled each year from 2013 through 2016, when it finally took the lead in becoming the most mentioned drug. In 2016, 29% (18,335) of all overdose deaths involved fentanyl.