Drug overdose deaths, caused mainly by prescription drug overdoses, are now the leading cause of injury death in the US, surpassing motor vehicle fatalities. The abuse of and addiction to opioids (e.g., heroin, morphine, and prescription pain relievers) is a serious global problem. It affects the health and social and economic welfare of all societies.
According to a National Institute of Drug Abuse study conducted in 2014, 18,893 people died from prescription opioid overdoses. Of these deaths, 10,574 were caused by illicit heroin. It is estimated that between 26 and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. In 2012, an estimated 2.1 million Americans suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, while an estimated 467,000 were addicted to heroin.