December 31, 2016

Introduction to Opioids and this Special Edition of the ABA Health eSource

An opioid is a medication which is designed to relieve pain by reducing the intensity of pain signals that reach the emotional control centers of the brain.1 Opioids include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine and other similar drugs.2 In 2010, 2.4 million Americans used a prescription drug for a non-medical purpose for the first time.3 By 2014, the latest data available from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.5 million Americans over the age of 12 were using psychotherapeutic drugs, like opioids, for non-medical reasons each month.4 The use of heroin in general has mirrored that increase during the same time period, and the abuse of prescription opioids is the number one cause of new instances of heroin use.5 In January 2016, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials described the “opioid overdose epidemic” as the “most pervasive drug issue of the day.”6

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