Opioids By The Numbers

Aug 28, 2017

According to the CDC, the amount of opioid painkillers peaked in 2010, but as of 2015, the prescribing rate remained three times as high as in 1999, when the nation’s problem with opioid addiction was just getting started.

Although it has not yet been declared an official emergency by the federal government, the opioid epidemic continues across the country. Georgia is no exception. There are 0.77 prescriptions for every person in Georgia. 

Every day in the United States 91 people die of opioid overdose. That includes prescription opiates and heroin. Over a year, that’s more than ten times the number of people who died on 9/11.

Number of prescription opioid overdose deaths in Georgia, 2001-2015.
Credit Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics. / Ezra Morris, Jessica Gurell/GPB

Health care providers, law enforcement, and government officials continue to attempt to adapt. While new laws and procedures are being introduced to help address the abuse of prescription drugs as well as heroin and other opiate-based drugs, new threats such as fetanyl continue to complicate an already complex public health calamity.

Number of drug overdose deaths related to opioids including heroin in Georgia, 2001-2015.
Credit Source: Office of Health Indicators for Planning (OHIP), Georgia Department of Public Health / Ezra Morris, Jessica Gurell/GPB

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the economic cost of prescription opioid abuse was over $78 billion in 2013.


The overall economic impact of opioids includes $78.5 billion in lost productivity from American workers. To give a sense of the scale of $78.5 billion, here is the total economic impact some of Georgia’s largest industries.
Credit Sources: CDC/GA Dept. Economic Development/UGA Center for Agribusiness & Economic Development / Ezra Morris/Jessica Gurell/GPB

A variety of aspects contribute to the staggering economic impact of opioid abuse. The impact goes far beyond skyrocketing health insurance expenses, a large part of the economic impact includes costs associated with treatment, incarceration and criminal justice. The largest contributing factor comes from lost productivity due to reduced productivity time, overdoses, and drug-related deaths.

Distribution of the national economic burden of prescription opioid overdose, abuse, and dependence based on 2013 data.
Credit Source: National Survey of Drug Use and Health, CDC / EzraMorris/Jessica Gurell/GPB