Stopping the Opioid Epidemic in America: Resources and Helplines

If you or someone you care about is struggling with opioid addiction, you’re far from alone. The opioid crisis in America has touched every corner of the nation, leaving a trail of pain and loss in its wake. Whether you’re seeking addiction help for yourself or a loved one — or are learning to provide addiction help as a counselor or health services provider — you’ve come to the right place.

Need Immediate Addiction Help?
Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357) or the National Opiate Hotline at 888-784-6641.

Otherwise, read on for a list of resources you can turn to for addiction help (including national and state organizations dedicated to helping addicts, online resources, and helplines), a breakdown of the opioid crisis in America, and an explanation of the signs of opioid addiction and opioid misuse.

Click any of the chapter headings below to go directly to that chapter, or keep scrolling to check out the full opioid addiction resource guide.

  • Section 1: National Opioid Addiction Resources and Helplines
  • Section 2: The State of Opioids in the U.S. — Statistics and Facts
  • Section 3: Signs of Opioid Addiction and Preventing Misuse

National Opioid Addiction Resources and Helplines

Overcoming opioid misuse or addiction isn’t easy, but you don’t have to face it alone. Whether you or a loved one is struggling, there are many places you can turn to for addiction help of all kinds, including medical providers, treatment centers, support groups, addiction hotlines, online resources and organizations committed to combating opioid addiction.

Organizations Combating the Opioid Crisis

Many federal government agencies are working to combat the opioid epidemic, and you can find a list of these public health initiatives in the third part of this guide. But in addition to the federal government, there are also a host of national, state and local organizations, both government-run and nonprofit, dedicated to combating the crisis and providing addiction help.

National Organizations

The following national organizations, among others, are working to end the opioid crisis:

State and Local Organizations

The following examples are just a few of the many state- and local-level organizations and groups working to provide opioid addiction help and recovery assistance:

Boston Medical Center’s Faster Paths to Treatment
Indiana Opioid Treatment Program
Ithaca, New York’s Ithaca Plan and Safe Injection Site
Kentucky’s Find Help Now KY
New Jersey Facing Addiction Taskforce
Ohio’s Take Charge Ohio
Oregon State University’s Collegiate Recovery Community
Pennsylvania Heroin Overdose Prevention Technical Assistance Center (TAC)
Pennsylvania’s OverdoseFreePA

To find a treatment program in your state or U.S. territory that offers opioid addiction help, check out SAMHSA’s Opioid Treatment Program Directory.

Other Ways to Locate Addiction Treatment

In addition to SAMHSA’s Opioid Treatment Program Directory, these other locator tools can help you find opioid addiction help in your area:

Online Addiction Help Resources

Regardless of your location, you can access an abundance of opioid addiction help resources online, aimed at both those struggling with an addiction and their loved ones.

Addiction Hotlines

An addiction hotline can be a literal lifesaver for those struggling with opioid misuse or addiction. Even outside of an emergency, an addiction helpline can be an invaluable resource that offers one-on-one support, information and guidance on finding treatment. The following are some of the main addiction hotlines available for people struggling with substance abuse:

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP)
    SAMHSA’s helpline is aimed at individuals and family members dealing with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. It’s available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in English and Spanish, and it is free and confidential. The helpline offers referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and other community resources, and also provides information and free publications. Reach the helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
  • Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Helpline (1-855-DRUG-FREE)
    Partnership for Drug-Free Kids offers a national, toll-free addiction helpline for parents whose children are dealing with substance abuse. The helpline is staffed by trained, bilingual experts who are available to talk confidentially with parents, provide information and help parents take action to support their children.
  • National Opiate Hotline (888-784-6641)
    The National Opiate Hotline offers a toll-free, 24-hour addiction hotline aimed specifically at people struggling with opioid misuse or addiction, as well as their loved ones. The hotline provides support and information, and it can help connect you with opioid treatment resources and support groups in your area.
  • SAMHSA Drug-Free Workplace Helpline (1-800-WORKPLACE)
    The Drug-Free Workplace Helpline is a free, confidential helpline aimed at helping employers and employees as well as their families, deal with substance abuse issues affecting the workplace.
  • Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-TALK)
    The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in any kind of crisis with supportive Department of Veterans Affairs responders, via phone, text or online chat. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)
    The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to anyone dealing with a suicidal crisis or emotional duress. The line is toll-free, confidential and open 24 hours, routing callers to the crisis center nearest them.

The State of Opioids in the U.S. — Statistics and Facts

The opioid crisis in America is the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history, and it’s only getting worse. Each new set of opioid epidemic statistics released seems more terrifying than the last; however, it’s important to understand the true nature and extent of the crisis before you can be empowered to take action to combat it. Below, we’ll take you through an overview of the opioid crisis in America, opioid crisis statistics and the rise of heroin and fentanyl.

What Is the Opioid Crisis?

Let’s start from the beginning: what are opioids? Opioids is a general term that incorporates both opiates (drugs derived from opium, including morphine, heroin, and prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin) and their synthetically produced counterparts (including methadone and fentanyl).

Opioids are highly effective painkillers, but they’re also highly addictive. Users start to need increasingly higher doses to obtain the same effect, which makes it all too easy to overdose.

So what is the opioid crisis? In brief, the opioid crisis in America is an unprecedented wave of deaths and addiction that public health officials are calling the worst drug crisis in American history.

Opioid Epidemic Statistics

Opioid epidemic statistics are startling. The following selection of statistics represents just some of the ways we can quantify the opioid crisis in America:

Overdose Deaths

  • Drug overdoses killed about 64,000 Americans in 2016.
  • Overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50.
  • More people die from overdoses than are killed by guns or in car accidents.

Opioid Misuse

  • There are more accidental overdose deaths from prescription opioids than from cocaine and heroin combined.
  • Studies claim that around 80 percent of heroin users start with opioid misuse.
  • Experts estimate that 2 million Americans have a problem with opioids.
  • A government survey found that over 97 million people took prescription opioid painkillers in 2015, and 12 million of those users did so without a doctor’s supervision.

Geography of the Crisis

  • The opioid crisis has affected all 50 states, but some regions have been hit harder than others: The Midwest, Appalachia and New England have seen the highest opioid overdose rates.
  • Opioid overdoses increased by 30 percent between July 2016 and September 2017 in 45 states, but the Midwest saw an astonishing 70 percent increase in that same period.
  • Despite constituting just 4.6 percent of the world’s population, America consumes over 80 percent of the global opioid supply.

The Rise of Heroin — and Fentanyl

While heroin isn’t new, the magnitude of its current presence in the United States is. The following key opioid epidemic statistics highlight heroin’s role in the crisis:

  • The number of heroin-related overdose deaths in 2015 was more than six times the number in 1999.
  • From 2014 to 2015 alone, heroin overdose death rates increased by 20.6 percent.
  • In 2016, 948,000 Americans reported using heroin in the previous year — a number that’s been rising steadily since 2007.
  • 170,000 Americans started using heroin in 2016, which is more than double the number of people who started heroin in 2002 (90,000).

Heroin isn’t the only dangerous opioid, but it is playing an outsized role in the opioid crisis. While prescription opioid deaths have begun to level off as the painkillers have become increasingly expensive and difficult to obtain, heroin overdose deaths have risen exponentially.

At the same time, overdose deaths from a synthetic opioid called fentanyl — similar to heroin but up to 50 times more powerful — have skyrocketed, increasing by 540 percent between 2013 and 2016. Because dealers often mix the cheaper fentanyl in with heroin, it’s dangerously easy to overdose on fentanyl without even realizing you have taken it.

Signs of Opioid Addiction and Preventing Misuse

Given the widespread nature and massive scale of the opioid crisis, it’s no surprise that many Americans have witnessed the signs of opioid addiction up close. If you suspect that you or someone in your personal or professional life may be struggling with opioid misuse, the best possible outcome would be to stop a budding addiction in its early stages. Of course, as an outsider, you can only do so much to influence the choices of others. Still, it’s important to be able to recognize common opioid addiction symptoms so that you can step in and help if you see these symptoms in others — or get help if you recognize them in yourself.

How to Identify an Addiction Before It Starts

While most people who use prescription opioids to manage pain do so without becoming addicts, too many of them do fall into opioid misuse or addiction.

  • Studies have found that 21 to 29 percent of people prescribed opioids for chronic pain end up misusing them, and roughly 8 to 12 percent develop an opioid addiction.
  • Of those who misuse prescription opioids, 4 to 6 percent progress to heroin.

Given these statistics, it’s important to be extra careful about the use of opioid pain medication. For people who are struggling with opioid misuse, the signs will likely be both physical and behavioral.

Physical Opioid Addiction Symptoms

Look out for these common physical signs of opioid addiction:

  • Sudden relaxation or euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing

Behavioral Opioid Addiction Symptoms

There are also several behavioral signs of opioid addiction:

  • Taking pills at a dose or in a way other than prescribed (dissolved in water, snorted, injected, etc.)
  • Taking medication to get high
  • Taking someone else’s prescription medication
  • “Doctor shopping” to get multiple prescriptions
  • Sudden financial struggles
  • Mood swings
  • Social withdrawal

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Once someone is addicted to opioids, it isn’t easy to stop using them. An addict’s body experiences withdrawal from the drug, which can be an enormously uncomfortable process. Withdrawal can have the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating
  • Cold flashes and goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Intense cravings

If you notice some of the opioid addiction symptoms listed above in yourself or someone else, it’s important that you seek help. You can find an extensive list of addiction help resources at the beginning of this article.

Commonly Abused Prescription Opioids

Many of the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers are also the most commonly abused. The following prescription opioids are common targets for opioid misuse:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

Alternatives to Opioid Pain Medication

Experts recommend using opioids for pain only when necessary and only in short-term cases. Because people with chronic pain are extremely susceptible to opioid misuse, they and their doctors are increasingly seeking alternative methods for pain management. These include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Antidepressants and anticonvulsants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Meditation
  • Physical therapy
  • Yoga
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Spinal manipulation therapy (SMT)
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy

Any pain management plan should take place under the direction of a doctor, but it’s important to know there can be effective alternatives to opioid painkillers.

How to Prevent Addiction in Your Children

While opioid misuse and addiction are most common in adults, there are things parents can do to reduce their children’s risk of future substance abuse, particularly in the crucial early childhood years:

  • Prenatal: Avoid substance use. Avoid smoking, drinking and using drugs during pregnancy, as well as maintain good nutrition.
  • Infancy: Be highly responsive to your child’s needs. This helps ensure a strong parent-child bond, which is critical for healthy development
  • Preschool: Help your child develop behavioral control. Learning to regulate emotions such as anger and aggression helps ensure your child can relate well to others.
  • Kindergarten: Make sure your child has school readiness skills. Entering school with basic skills (colors, numbers and letters, and pre-reading skills) helps establish a foundation for academic success.
  • School years: Provide the tools for success. Give your child the following as he or she grows up:
    • Warmth and affection
    • Age-appropriate expectations
    • Consistent routines and rules
    • Praise for accomplishments
    • Opportunities to socialize with peers
    • Opportunities for physical exercise
    • Support during transitional moments

Children who grow up with the above factors are more likely to become adults who can cope with life’s stressful changes and challenges in healthy ways, making them less likely to turn to substance abuse or opioid misuse.

Public Health Initiatives

Because of the severity of the opioid crisis in America, public health officials have made combating the epidemic a major priority. President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” in October 2017.

Below are some of the public health initiatives currently being undertaken by the federal government to combat the opioid epidemic:

  • President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis: This committee issued a report with recommendations for ways the federal government should help combat the opioid crisis in America.
  • National Institute of Health (NIH) Initiatives
  • The NIH is focusing its research efforts on two major areas:

    • Opioid Misuse and Addiction: The NIH supports research into how to treat and prevent opioid misuse and addiction, and how to ensure successful long-term recovery for addicts.
    • Pain Management: The NIH is investing in research to develop alternatives to opioid pain medication for people with chronic pain who are highly susceptible to opioid misuse.
  • The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP)National Action Plan for Adverse Drug Event (ADE) Prevention: This action plan calls on local, state and federal leaders to use evidence-based strategies for preventing opioid overdoses and other ADEs.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Initiatives
  • SAMHSA has many initiatives aimed at combating the opioid crisis:

    • Opioid State Targeted Response Grant Program: SAMHSA awarded grants to all 50 states in 2018 to help increase access to treatment and reduce opioid overdose deaths.
    • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Initiatives: SAMHSA has funded online and in-person trainings for medical professionals on MAT for opioid use disorder.
    • Grants to Prevent Opioid Overdose Related Deaths: SAMSA grants are being used to train first responders as well as to purchase and distribute naloxone, which is used to help save lives in the event of an overdose.

These public health initiatives, along with the efforts of state and local governments and nonprofit organizations, show that those struggling with addiction and their loved ones aren’t fighting this battle alone. The opioid crisis affects the entire nation, and only by working together can we hope to put an end to it.

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