Opioid addiction is a disease that involves compulsive drug-seeking, even when there may be negative consequences. It's not a moral weakness. It's a chronic disease in which people develop a pattern of using opioids that can lead to clinically significant impairment or distress. Some of the most commonly abused opioids include hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and heroin.
Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.
Women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription pain relievers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men. Women may become dependent on prescription pain relievers more quickly than men. 48,000 women died of prescription pain reliever overdoses between 1999 and 2010.
The opioid epidemic began in the 1990s with over-prescription of powerful opioid pain relievers. They quickly became the most prescribed class of medications in the United States, exceeding antibiotics and heart medication.
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. But the facts are that 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