Opioid Overdose Prevention Saves Lives

Friends and Families

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 (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.external icon

Opioid use disorder and overdoses are preventable

OUD has contributed significantly to overdose deaths among those who use or misuse illicit and prescription opioids.  Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids like illicitly manufactured fentanyl (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths. OUD and overdoses continue to be a major public health concern in the United States but are preventable.

Get the Facts
  • Nearly 70% of the 67,367 deaths in 2018 involved an opioid.
  • 10.3 million people reported misuse of opioids (prescription and heroin), and of that number, 9.9 million had misused prescription opioids in 2018.
  • In 2018, an estimated 2.0 million people had an opioid use disorder.
  • In 2018, an estimated 21.2 million Americans needed substance use disorder treatment, but only 3.7 million people received any kind of treatment in the past year.
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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.

Find Treatment for Substance 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 external icon

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