Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week

Over the last few years, opioids have gotten a lot of attention in the United States. That’s because prescription misuse, opioid use disorder (addiction to opioids) and overdose has been a big problem in this country. In honor of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, which runs from September 15-22, we are raising awareness about this very important topic.

What you need to know about opioids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also called CDC), in 2017 more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were received by American patients. Prescription opioids are painkillers often used to treat pain after an injury or surgery. Codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, tramadol and fentanyl are some types of opioids.

The illegal drug heroin is also an opioid. Fentanyl and other prescription opioids are being made and sold illegally. When used illegally, fentanyl sold on the street is often mixed with heroin or cocaine, which makes it very dangerous.

Opioid use disorder

Prescription opioids not only help treat pain, they also release chemicals in the brain that can make you feel calm and very happy (also called euphoria). This combined effect makes it easy for some people to get addicted to opioids. Most people who take prescription opioids can stop using them without problems, but it can be very hard for some people to stop using them. Even if you take opioids as directed by your provider, using them regularly can make you dependent on them.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (also called NIDA) reports that about 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder. According to the CDC, on average, 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day.

Opioids and pregnancy

Having an opioid use disorder can make taking care of yourself during pregnancy more difficult. For example, you may miss your prenatal care checkups and not make healthy choices for you and your baby. You’re also at risk for overdose and for mental health conditions, like depression.

Possible complications linked to opioid use during pregnancy may include:

Getting help

If you need help to stop abusing prescription drugs, talk to your health care provider. Or contact: