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Opioid dependence can happen after just 5 days

Many big numbers underscore the national opioid epidemic.

Case in point: More than 115 people died every day of opioid overdoses in America in 2016, and they accounted for nearly two-thirds of the approximately 63,632 Americans who died of drug overdose that year. This year, it is estimated that more than 2 million Americans will suffer from addiction to prescription or illicit opioids.

But there is also a small number that is crucial to understanding the opioid epidemic and the dangers of opioid misuse: five.

Using an opioid — a class of drug that includes prescription painkillers like oxycodone (OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (Vicodin®), as well as the illegal drugs heroin and fentanyl — for just five days causes a sharp increase in the likelihood that a person will use the drug long term. For many people, it can lead to a lifetime of addiction.

Opioid dependence can happen after just five days because the drugs are some of the strongest on the planet. Prescription opioids are chemically similar to heroin, one of the most addictive drugs. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports nearly 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription opioids.

truth® public education campaign, The Truth About Opioids, is spreading this information by telling the stories of young people who became dependent on the powerfully addictive drugs. Young Americans are particularly vulnerable to the risks associated with opioid misuse, addiction and the dangerous spiral down from prescription to illicit use. In 2016, 2.5 million young adults reported misusing an opioid in the past year.

The second phase of the campaign, called “Treatment Box,” captures 26-year-old Rebekkah’s story through a multiscreen video installation in New York City, bringing Americans face-to-face with her opioid addiction, withdrawal and treatment.

For more information, read “the unseen struggle of opioid addiction, withdrawal and treatment” and visit

TAGS: addiction