Developed by Seabourne Consulting, experts in U.S. Opioid Epidemic

U.S. Opioid Epidemic

Opioids are drugs, such as morphine and heroin, that are naturally derived from the opium poppy plant. They are also a class of strong painkillers that are human-made  to mimic the sedative effects of those plant-derived drugs. Common names are fentanyl, OxyContin, and Vicodin. Opioids are prescribed for short term acute pain relief for conditions such as cancer pain, end-of-life care, dentistry and post-surgery care. At lower doses, opioids may make users feel sleepy, but higher doses can slow breathing and heart rate, which can lead to death. In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses.


Starting in the late 1990s, there was a rapid growth in the use of prescription opioids. Once touted as the non-addictive treatment for pain, these drugs were later found to be highly addictive and often led to widespread misuse—these facts minimized by pharmaceutical companies for years. Opioid deaths tripled from 2000 to 2015. 


Women—due to factors such as chronic conditions, domestic abuse, and childbirth pain—and adolescents—in part due to sports injuries and dental surgeries—are more likely to be prescribed opioids. Adolescents and young adults are especially susceptible to the effects of opioids because of their undeveloped frontal cortex. 


Attention to this epidemic has focused primarily on White suburban and rural communities. Less attention has focused on Black and brown communities which are similarly experiencing dramatic increases in opioid misuse and overdose deaths. The rate of increase among Black and brown  populations from drug overdose deaths between 2015-2016 was 40 percent compared to the overall population increase at 21 percent. 


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.

Resources & Tools


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Pain in the Nation
Resource
Brought to you by Well Being Trust
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Prescribe Safe: Combating Opioid Abuse
Story - Written
Brought to you by 100MHL
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A collision of epidemics: Coronavirus disrupts addiction treatment
Story - Written
Brought to you by CalMatters
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Growing Accessibility of Opioids in Rural Areas
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 02/21/2017
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Our Need for a National Resilience Strategy
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
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Navigating the Opioid Crisis
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
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Holistic Health and Wellness Expo
Story - Written
Brought to you by KU Center for Community Health and Development: Community Tool Box
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Safe Medication Collection
Story - Written
Brought to you by KU Center for Community Health and Development: Community Tool Box
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Tackling America’s Mental Health and Addiction Crisis Through Primary Care Integration
Resource - Report
Brought to you by Bipartisan Policy Center Inc.
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Maximizing Public Benefit From Opioid Settlement Resources
Resource - Journal Article
Brought to you by Milbank Memorial Fund
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Strategies for Effectively Allocating Opioid Settlement Funds
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by RAND Corporation
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CLOUD Opioid Library
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by Center for Evidence Based Policy
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Addressing Data and Information Gaps Contributing to Opioid Use Disorder
Resource - Policy Brief
Brought to you by Network for Excellence in Health Innovation
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Stem the Tide: Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
Resource - Guide/handbook
Published on 11/07/2017
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Spotlight: Opioid Epidemic
Resource - Fact Sheet
Brought to you by Well Being Trust
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Detox Local
Resource - Website/webpage
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 Related Topics


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Substance Use

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Mental Health and Wellbeing