Fast Facts—Opioids

Journal Staff


The following statistics are from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (

2015 statistics

  • Of the 20.5 million Americans 12 and older who had a substance use disorder, 2 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers, and 591,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses.
  • Opioid addiction is driving the epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin.
  • 276,000 adolescents (ages 12 to 17) were current nonmedical users of pain relievers, with 122,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers.
National figures
  • In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult his or her own bottle of pills.
  • The number of past-year heroin users in the U.S. nearly doubled between 2005 and 2012, from 380,000 to 670,000.
  • 94 percent of respondents in a 2014 survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were “far more expensive and harder to obtain.”
Addiction by gender
  • 48,000 women died of prescription pain reliever overdoses between 1999 and 2010.
  • Prescription pain reliever overdose deaths among women increased more than 400 percent from 1999 to 2010, compared to 237 percent among men.
The following statistics are from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (

On an average day in the U.S.

  • More than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed.
  • 3,900 people start nonmedical use of prescription opioids.
  • 580 people start heroin use.
  • 78 people die from an opioid-related overdose.
Economic impact each year
  • $55 billion in health and social costs related to prescription opioid abuse.
  • $20 billion in emergency department and inpatient care for opioid poisonings.