Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disease, because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, self-control, and decision-making and those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped using drugs.
Opioid overdose and misuse are a significant public health crisis in the U.S. today.1
Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.2
Each day in the US, 137 people die from opioid-related overdoses.3*
More than 50,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2019, most involving an illicit opioid like fentanyl or heroin.3*
The true cost of the opioid drug epidemic in 2015 was $504 billion according to the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers.4
There are three FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder: buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone. All three medications are available in oral formulations. Buprenorphine and naltrexone are available in long-acting injectable formulations. According to SAMHSA, medications for OUD normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative and euphoric effects of the substance used. Research shows that a combination of medication and behavioral counseling can help patients enter and sustain long-term recovery. Healthcare providers can choose the medication that best meets the needs of the patient.
1 HHS.gov, Oct 2019. Opioid epidemic by numbers. Accessed 02/27/2020. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2018 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2020. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html on Jul 1, 2020.
3NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm on Oct 12, 2020.
4 The Council of Economic Advisors, November 2017. The Underestimated Cost of the Opioid Crisis. Accessed on January 18, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/The%20Underestimated%20Cost%20of%20the%20Opioid%20Crisis.pdf