The Epidemic

How We Got Here

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This led to widespread misuse of these medications before it became clear that these drugs could, indeed, be highly addictive. Opioid overdose rates began to increase.

View the short film, Prescribed to Death.

Drug Overdose Deaths

Drug overdose deaths, particularly opioid-involved deaths, continue to increase in the United States. In fact, more than 115 people every day in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The number of overdose deaths involving opioids nationwide has increased five-fold since 1990. Heroin and other opioids are ravaging communities across America. More Americans die from drug overdoses than in car crashes, and this increasing trend is driven by Rx painkillers.

The Impact in RVA

Opioids are the most common class of drug involved in RVA overdose deaths. It’s a growing problem and one that is negatively impacting lives: our families, communities and the entire state. It’s also a problem that we can do something about. It is up to all of us to be part of the solution and help prevent and treat the issue of opioid addiction.

Heightened Awareness Needed

Our society has become familiar - and comfortable - with the common use of prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. As new medicines for alleviating symptoms come to market, they are heavily promoted with their images advertised in newspapers, magazines, on television and the internet, raising our understanding of the conditions they treat. As a result, our young people have grown up associating medicine with solving problems - and have a heightened awareness of the positive effects of Rx and OTC medicines.

“Two-thirds (66%) of teens who report abuse of prescription pain relievers are getting them from friends, family and acquaintances.” Source: Partnership for Drug Free Kids

Common Misconceptions

Teens and other young adults don’t necessarily see this behavior as risky. Many believe that since medicine is created and tested in a scientific environment it is therefore safer to use than street drugs.

Explore common misconceptions about opioids through the voices of teens at Operation Prevention.

Find out more information about The Opioid Epidemic (PDF) here.