Opioid overdose continues to be a major public health problem in the United States. It has contributed significantly to accidental deaths among those who use or misuse illicit and prescription opioids.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
A variety of effects can occur after a person takes opioids, ranging from pleasure to nausea, vomiting, severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis, and overdose, in which breathing and heartbeat slow or even stop. Opioid overdose can occur when a patient deliberately misuses a prescription opioid or an illicit drug such as heroin. It can also occur when a patient takes an opioid as directed, but the prescriber miscalculated the opioid dose or an error was made by the dispensing pharmacist, or the patient simply misunderstood directions for use. Also at risk, are individuals who misuse opioids and combine them with sedative hypnotic agents resulting in sedation and respiratory depression.
Signs of OVERDOSE, which often results in death if not treated, include:
Signs of OVERMEDICATION, which may progress to overdose, include:
Ali, M., Dowd, W., Classen, T., Mutter, R. and Novak, S. (2016, June). Prescription drug monitoring programs, nonmedical use of prescription drugs, and heroin use: Evidence from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Addictive Behaviors, 69, 65-77. doi: org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.01.011
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). Understanding the Epidemic. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov
Rudd, R.A., Seth, P., David, F. and Scholl, L. (2016, December). Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2010–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly. DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6550e1.