Opioid Overdose Prevention Saves Lives

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Substance use disorders, like opioid use disorder (OUD), have significantly impacted communities across America. When we act early, we can prevent the use and misuse of drugs, like opioids, that can lead to substance use disorders. Prevention activities work to educate and support individuals, families, and communities and are critical for maintaining both individual and community health.

Opioid use disorder and overdoses are preventable

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), sometimes referred to as “opioid abuse or dependence” or “opioid addiction,” is a problematic pattern of opioid use that causes significant impairment or distress. OUD is a medical condition that can affect anyone – regardless of race, gender, income level, or social class. Like many other medical conditions, there are evidence-based treatments that are available for OUD, but seeking treatment remains stigmatized.  Stigma can be a major barrier to how well prevention and treatment programs can work to address the opioid crisis.

Stigma or the fear of stigma may stop someone from sharing their health condition with partners or family members. It may also prevent them from accessing seeking the health or behavioral health services and support services they need. People who experience health-related stigma may also experience less access to healthcare, delayed diagnosis of a condition, and reduced adherence to treatments. Learn more about what you can do to reduce stigma.

OUD significantly contributes to overdose deaths among people who use illicit opioids or misuse prescription opioids. Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids like illicitly manufactured fentanyl are currently the main cause of drug overdose deaths. For every drug overdose that results in death, there are many more nonfatal overdoses, each one with its own emotional and economic toll. OUD and overdose deaths continue to be a major public health concern in the United States, but they are preventable.

Get the Facts
  • Overdoses are the leading injury-related cause of death in the United States and appear to have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • In 2020, nearly 92,000 people died from drug overdoses, a 31% increase from the approximately 71,000 overdose deaths in 2019.
  • Among the 2020 overdose deaths, about 75% involved a prescription or illicit opioid.
  • Research shows that people who have had at least one overdose are more likely to have another.
  • In 2020, an estimated 41.1 million Americans needed substance use disorder treatment, but only 2.6 million people with a substance use disorder in the past year received treatment.
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Promising prevention strategies

The best ways to prevent opioid overdose are to improve opioid prescribing, reduce exposure to opioids, prevent use and misuse, and treat opioid use disorder. There are strategies that can help prevent overdose and support the health and well-being of communities.

  • Promote and support the use of the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.
  • Increase and maximize use of prescription drug monitoring programs, which are state-run databases that track prescriptions for controlled substances and can help improve opioid prescribing, inform clinical practice, and protect those at risk.
  • Learn about the risks of prescription opioids and about the help and resources that are available for someone who may be struggling with opioid use disorder. See CDC’s Rx Awareness Campaign for shareable resources and information on improving awareness.
  • Treat opioid use disorder by increasing access to substance use disorder treatment services, including Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD). Recovery is possible.
  • Reverse overdose by expanding access to naloxone, a drug used to reverse overdose, for community members (family members and neighbors) and service providers (i.e., first responders).
  • Help communities put effective practices to work where opioid use disorder is common, including using evidence-based strategies [PDF]

Find Treatment for Substance Use Disorder, including Opioid Use Disorder

If you or someone close to you needs help for a substance use disorder, talk to your doctor or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or go to SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services

Additional Resources:

If you have questions about any medicines, call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Access the latest guideline, data, and resources