130+

people died every day from opioid-related drug overdoses

11.4M

people misused prescription opioids

47,600

people died from overdosing on opioids

2.1M

people had an opioid use disorder

81,000

people used heroin for the first time

886,000

people used heroin

"The rise of synthetic opioids - specifically those involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl and its analogues – has doubled deaths in Americans under 50 years old since the late 2010s." - Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics System Mortality File

Statistics and Research

WHY ARE OPIOIDS USED?

Opioids such as oxycodone (OxyContin®) have traditionally been prescribed for pain relief. However, opioids are also illegal drugs like heroin and illicit fentanyl. When the body’s nervous system interprets pain signals, a message travels through sensory receptors, gets sent through the spinal cord, and ultimately reaches the brain. When someone takes an opioid, these pain messages are blocked, and the pain threshold is lessened through different receptors.

 

WHAT MAKES OPIOIDS DANGEROUS?

Opioids can lessen discomfort by stopping the pain sensor from reaching the brain. The disruption is deadly because the drug binds to receptors on the brain linked with our brain stem, where the body’s autonomic functioning skills are located. These essential functions include breathing and heart rate. Therefore, when someone suffers an opioid overdose, it affects these automatic functions causing breathing and heart rate to slow or even stop.

 

HOW DO PEOPLE BECOME ADDICTED?

Opioids impact brain functions and it takes less than a week to form a dependency. When opioid molecules cross the blood-brain barrier, the drug latches to neurons flooding the system with feel-good neurotransmitters. When a person consistently floods the brain by using drugs, the only time a person feels “happy” is when they use drugs. When the high is over, the brain is exhausted from the feel-good neurotransmitters, leaving the individual depressed. To avoid feeling sad, more drugs are taken, promoting the cycle of addiction.

 

Source: CDC< Center of Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, and Shatterproof

Volunteer