Opioid Crisis Remains a Significant Public Health Challenge Requires Urgent Attention

Anurag Sharma
Anurag Sharma

Updated · Oct 16, 2023


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According to Opioid Crisis Statistics, The opioid crisis refers to the widespread misuse and addiction to opioid drugs, including both prescription painkillers (such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl) and illicit substances like heroin. It has become a significant public health issue in many countries, including the United States.

Editor’ Choice

  • Opioids Market size is expected to be worth around USD 28.5 Billion by 2032
  • About 79,117 Americans died from drug overdose between January and September 2022.
  • In 2021, about 81,155 people died during the first nine months of 2021, but still 50% higher than pre-2020 levels.
  • A total of 5,360 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred so far in 2022 (January – September) in Canada.
  • In 2020, there were approximately 69,710 drug overdose deaths in the United States, with opioids involved in about 69.5% of those cases.
  • In 2022, an estimated 9.7 million Americans misused prescription pain relievers.
  • Men have a higher rate of opioid overdose deaths as compared to women, with men aged 25-54 having the highest rate.

All Suspected Opioid-Related Incidents by Severity Category: 2023 Q1

DOAs Incidents27222170
DOAs %2%1.8%1.5%1.8%
Acute Overdose Incidents7767188372,331
Acute Overdose %58.7%57.8%58.958.5%
Opioid Intoxicated Incidents207216270693
Opioid Intoxicated %15.7%17.4%19.0%17.4%
Opioid Withdrawal Incidents 715948178
Opioid Withdrawal %5.4%4.8%3.4%4.5%
Other Opioid-Related Incidents240227244711
Other Opioid-Related %18.2%18.3%17.2%17.9%

Opioid Use Prevalence Statistics

  • In the US, an estimated 9.7 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in 2020 – representing 3.6% of the population.
  • In 2020, approximately 16.8 million adults aged 12 or older reported using prescription opioids for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lives – accounting for 6.2% of the population.
  • In 2020, an estimated 2.0 million individuals aged 12 or over with opioid use disorder comprised 0.7% of the population.
  • At least 56.2% of individuals aged 12 or over who misused opioids within the past year reported obtaining them from family or friends without their explicit permission, while 21.8% purchased them directly from healthcare professionals.
  • In 2020, approximately 8.7 million adults in the US received high doses of opioid medication prescription.
  • 2020 data indicates that 1.8% of adolescents aged 12-17 reported nonmedical use of prescription opioids over the last year.

Prescription Opioid Statistics

  • In 2022, healthcare providers across the US issued over 153 million opioid prescriptions.
  • Between 1999 and 2021, prescription opioid sales quadrupled, contributing to the opioid crisis.
  • Prescription opioids were responsible for over 49% of opioid overdose deaths in 2019 in the US.
  • In 2022, more than 14,000 deaths in the US were attributed to prescription opioid overdoses.
  • United States residents consume roughly 80% of the global opioid supply despite only representing approximately 5% of the global population. (Source: CDC)
  • An estimated 9.7 million people misused prescription opioids in the United States in 2021.
  • In 2022, nearly 2 million individuals in the US had an opioid use disorder relating to prescription opioids.
  • About 21-29% of patients prescribed opioids to manage chronic pain misuse them.

Opioid Statistics by Age and Gender

  • Opioid use among adolescents aged 12-17 declined from 7.8% in 2002 to 4.9% by 2020.
  • As per recent research, prescription opioid misuse peaks among individuals aged 26-34 years of age with 5.6% reporting misuse within the last year.
  • 7.6% of young adults aged 18-25 misused opioids within the last year.
  • Age 25-44 has the highest opioid overdose death rate with 35.2 deaths per 100,000 people expected in 2020.
  • Opioid overdose deaths among adults aged 45-64 have increased from an annual incidence rate of 6.3 in 1999 to 33.5 deaths per 100,000 by 2020.
  • 1.1% of adults aged 65 or older reported misusing opioids within the past year.
  • Men have higher opioid overdose death rates than women. In 2020, male opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 were 39.8 while female deaths per 100,000 was 22.2 deaths.
  • Women are more likely than men to receive prescription opioids, with a higher prevalence of chronic pain conditions.

Heroin Use and its Consequences by Opioid Crisis

  • In the United States, opioids were involved in over 69,000 overdose deaths in 2020.
  • Naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal medication and was utilized to reverse over 46,000 opioid overdoses in 2020 alone in the US alone.
  • In 2019, approximately 9% of new HIV diagnoses in the US could be linked to injection drug use.
  • Hepatitis C transmission has also been associated with injection drug use. An estimated 50,300 new Hepatitis C virus infections occurred in 2019 in the US alone primarily among people who inject drugs.
  • In the US, NAS rates have significantly increased from 1.5 cases per 1,000 hospital births in 2004 to 8.0 cases per 1,000 hospital births by 2021.
  • In 2022, an estimated 10.10 million people worldwide used heroin at least once during their lifetimes.
  • In 2020, approximately 0.4% (about 1 million people) reported heroin use within the past year in the US.
  • An estimated 25% of those who take up heroin become dependent on it.
  • In 2020, an estimated 626,000 individuals aged 12 or older had a heroin use disorder in the US.

Prevalence of Opioid Crisis by Country

United States

The United States has been heavily affected by the opioid crisis, with a high number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Prescription opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl, have contributed to the crisis.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019 there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths, of which nearly 70% involved opioids.
  • Healthcare providers across the U.S. wrote nearly 153 million prescriptions for opioids last year – translating to 46.7 prescriptions per 100 persons.
  • In 2021, around 80,411 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States
  • In 2021, the death rate from opioid overdose was 24.7 per 100,000 deaths.
  • In 2021, the United States recorded over 100,000 overdose deaths for the first time, with a tally of 103,598 deaths (preliminary numbers by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Overdose deaths in the U.S. increased from around 67,800 in 2018 and 71,100 in 2019 to 92,500 in 2020 due to the pandemic.
  • In 2021, around 70,600 people in the United States died from a drug overdose that involved fentanyl.
Opioid Crisis


  • In 2020, there were 6,214 apparent opioid toxicity deaths in Canada, representing a significant increase compared to previous years.
  • In 2020, fentanyl and fentanyl analogs were involved in approximately 87% of opioid-related deaths where the cause was known.
  • Between April 2019 and March 2020, there were 27,595 opioid-related emergency department visits in Canada.
  • In 2019, there were 16.3 million opioid prescriptions dispensed in Canada, with a rate of 44.9 opioid prescriptions per 100 population.
  • In 2020, First Nations individuals accounted for 40% of all opioid-related deaths in Ontario, despite representing only 3% of the population.
  • During 2021, there were a total of 7,169 deaths from opioid overdose in Canada, 2,262 of which occurred in the province of British Columbia.
  • In 2021, there were a total of 7,560 deaths in Canada due to opioid overdose.
  • Approximately 29% of these deaths occurred among individuals aged 30 to 39 years.
  • In 2021, there were a total of 6,164 opioid-related poisoning hospitalizations in Canada. Among these hospitalizations, approximately 707 occurred specifically among males aged 30 to 39 years.


  • According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data for 2020, there were 1,024 opioid-induced deaths – an increase from previous years.
  • In 2021, a National Drug Strategy Household Survey discovered that approximately 3.8% of Australians had misused pharmaceutical opioids within the last year.
  • According to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s Illicit Drug Data Report 2019-20, there has been an increase in detections of Fentanyl during drug seizures.
  • In 2021, according to Australia’s National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data (2021), 16,318 opioid-related overdose presentations to Australian hospitals occurred between 2021.
  • According to Australia’s National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data (2019), around 53,000 Australians received opioid substitution therapy in 2018-2019.

United Kingdom

  • In 2020, there were 4,561 deaths involving opioids – the highest number ever recorded and an increase of 3.8% year-on-year.
  • According to NHS Business Services Authority data, between April 2018 and March 2019, nearly 2 million people were prescribed opioid painkillers for long-term use in England alone.
  • According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, an estimated 115,000 individuals between 16-59 reported using heroin in 2020/2021 – marking an uptick from previous years.
  • In 2020, fentanyl and its analogs accounted for 69% of drug poisoning deaths in England and Wales.
  • The largest number of deaths from opiate drug poisoning was recorded in 2020, with 2,263 deaths due to opiate poisoning.
Anurag Sharma

Anurag Sharma

He has been helping in business of varied scales, with key strategic decisions. He is a specialist in healthcare, medical devices, and life-science, and has accurately predicted the trends in the market. Anurag is a fervent traveller, and is passionate in exploring untouched places and locations. In his free time, he loves to introspect and plan ahead.