The Problem

An Epidemic

The headlines tell of rising death tolls. Economists studying the issue discuss the ever-rising economic costs. Medical professionals research how to best treat pain without over prescribing opioids. Legislatures debate new laws to address the issue.

In 2020, America’s opioid epidemic - which was declared in November 2011 but began a decade before - continues to leave in its wake grieving families, hundreds of thousands of people impacted by addiction and communities struggling to develop strategies to combat the issue. While the numbers don’t tell the entire story, they do provide context for understanding the scope of the epidemic and extent of the work that must be done to address it.

The Statistics:

  • In 2018 nearly 46,000 people died from overdosing on opioids – that’s 125 people each day. (National Vital Statistics System)
  • In August 2018, the CDC Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report published a study showing that over 50% of prescription opioid deaths also involved a benzodiazepine, a legal anti-anxiety drug. (CDC)
  • Benzodiazepines are as addictive and dangerous as opioids and the number of people taking those drugs is on the rise.
  • A mixture of opioids and benzos is the most common drug combination in cases where an overdose death involved two or more drugs.
  • Studies have found that the number of emergency room visits for benzodiazepines have more than doubled in the past two decades and the number of people seeking treatment for abusing "benzos" has nearly tripled.
  • Only 10 percent of Americans with opioid problems get treatment.
  • Opioid overdoses are one reason that US life expectancy had declined for two consecutive years, the first time that has occurred in 50 years. (National Vital Statistics System)