Prescription Drug Abuse

How to Combat the Rising Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic

Drug overdose is now the No. 1 cause of unintentional death in the United States. In 2020, 83,558 people died from drug overdoses, an all-time high. The main driver of these deaths is opioids – including prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl and its analogues.

People who take prescribed opioids, even as directed, may build up a tolerance. When pain has subsided, some people find it easy to stop taking them and others find it harder to quit. Some people who find it harder to quit may continue to take opioids for longer than necessary, or may develop an opioid use disorder. Over 50% percent of people who have misused prescription opioids reported getting them from friends or relatives. Most people don't even know that sharing opioids is a felony.

National Safety Council provides answers for families, resources for employers and prescribers, and information to help keep you safe at home and in your community:

Opioids: By the Numbers

The term “opioid” includes both prescription pain relievers (Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, etc.) and illicit drugs (heroin, illicitly manufactured fentanyl, etc.). Some of these substances are derived from the poppy plant (natural or semisynthetic opioids), while others are fully synthetic (they don’t occur naturally).

Data  from 2020 shows us that:

  •  The vast majority of preventable drug overdose deaths (77%) involve opioids
  •  Preventable drug overdose deaths increased 649% since 1999
  •  The opioid category that includes morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone was involved in 11,893 deaths
  •  The drug category most frequently involved in opioid overdoses and growing at the fastest pace is synthetic opioids other than methadone (fentanyl, drugs that are chemically similar to fentanyl)
  •  Fentanyl accounted for 53,480 preventable deaths, representing a 59% increase over 2019
  •  Psychostimulants, including methamphetamine, accounted for the second highest number of deaths, claiming 23,022 lives

How much can substance abuse cost your company? 

Find out the real cost of substance abuse to employers based on your industry, state, and number of employees by using the Substance Use Cost Calculator at

Prescription Drug Employer Toolkit Download