5 things to know about the opioid epidemic

Amid growing concern over the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic, President Barack Obama has designated a week to remember those affected and raise awareness of the public health crisis.

Sept. 18-24 has been proclaimed Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week by the president.

"During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic," he said in the proclamation.

In light of this week, here are five things to know about the opioid epidemic:

1. More Americans die annually from drug overdoses than in traffic accidents, and more than three out of five of these deaths involve an opioid, President Obama's proclamation states.

2. Nationwide, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers, heroin and fentanyl, has nearly quadrupled since 1999.

3. Many of the recent overdoses and deaths in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia have been attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl or its analogues, which include carfentanil, being mixed into heroin. Carfentanil is 10,000 times stronger than morphine.

4. The federal government also plans to take "enhanced measures" with China to combat the supply of fentanyl as well as analogues of the drug.

5. The abuse and misuse of opioids costs the U.S. about $78.5 billion a year for healthcare and addiction treatment costs, lost work productivity and criminal justice system expenses, according to a study published in Medical Care.

Click here to learn more about federal efforts to fight the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.


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