Opioid Abuse and Addiction - Banner

Substance use disorder

Opioids can produce significant side effects, including serious, life-threatening or fatal respiratory depression. Prolonged use of an opioid during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. Accidental ingestion of even one dose can result in a fatal overdose.1 An opioid overdose can be identified by a combination of three signs and symptoms referred to as the "opioid overdose triad":

Pinpoint pupils
Unconsciousness
Respiratory depression2

Potential drug interactions should also be carefully monitored. For instance, taking an opioid with other opioid medicines, benzodiazepines, alcohol or other central nervous system depressants can cause severe drowsiness, decreased awareness, breathing problems, coma and death. It is important to assess the risks versus benefits for each individual opioid and for each specific patient.1

183,000+ Americans

have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids between
1999-2015.3

By the numbers

By the numbers, abuse and addiction
of opioids has left a staggering toll on society:

The total economic burden is estimated to be $78.5 billion.

$28.9 billion – or over one third of this amount – is due to increased healthcare and substance abuse treatment costs.

Approximately one quarter of the cost is borne by the public sector in healthcare, substance abuse treatment and criminal justice costs.4

Addressing Addiction

Addressing Addiction

Substance use disorder is characterized by symptoms that fall into four major groups: impaired control, social impairment, risky use and pharmacological criteria (i.e., tolerance and withdrawal).5

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), opioids have the potential to cause substance dependence characterized by a strong desire to take opioids, impaired control over opioid use, persistent opioid use despite harmful consequences and a higher priority given to opioid use than to other activities and obligations, among other things.

Addiction is commonly defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.5 Over time, higher doses may be needed to get the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms may occur when cutting back or abruptly stopping the opioid.6

As a healthcare professional, you are uniquely positioned to observe signs of potential abuse and addiction of prescription medicines. By having an open dialogue with your patients, you can help safeguard them against abuse and addiction.7

When discussing addiction with your patients, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) urges you to set the right example by talking about addiction as a treatable disease. NIDA provides sample dialogue and questions you can ask your patients.

2 million Americans

~2 million Americans

had substance use disorders related to prescription pain relievers in 2015.8

Finding Help for Patients

Finding Help for Patients & Caregivers

Many organizations provide resources or can connect you with specialists certified to treat opioid use disorders if you recognize signs of abuse or addiction.

How to Find an Addiction Specialist?

To find an ASAM member, search the ASAM Member Directory.


National Practice Guideline for the Use of Medications in the Treatment of Addiction Involving Opioid Use

Provides information on evidence-based treatment of opioid use disorder. Addresses all FDA-approved medications available to treat addiction involving opioid use and opioid overdose in a single document.


Opioid Treatment Program Directory

Find healthcare professionals authorized to treat opioid dependency by state.

Opioid Abuse Reference

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