The face of opioid pill addiction: Who uses painkillers? (INFOGRAPHIC)

A graphic display of the statistics showing who uses prescription opioid pills in the U.S. Find out the details about the age, gender, and ethnicity of opioid painkiller users in this infographic.

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America + Painkillers = A rise in addiction

The new epidemic created by the over prescription of opioid pain relievers has everyone talking. While we advocate that painkiller should only be used for pain that is severe and is not helped by other types of painkillers…the reality is that access to pain meds is relatively easy, inexpensive, and creating new addicts every day. In fact, most people do not know that experts advise us NOT to use opioid pills for more than 3 to 4 months, unless you are under direct care of your provider.

Still, doctors keep prescribing and people keep taking all forms of pain pills, such as:

The face of opioid pill addiction: Who uses painkillers? (INFOGRAPHIC)

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There were an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders (SUD) related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012, which is why this ‘phenomena’ was named America’s Opioid Crisis. In fact, there are so many Americans using opioids that an estimated 1 out of 5 patients with non-cancer pain or pain-related diagnoses are prescribed opioids in office-based settings.

Who uses opioid pills?

Here are some prescription painkiller-related statistics from the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2014:

  • 4.3 million Americans engaged in non-medical use of prescription painkillers within the month prior to being surveyed.
  • Approximately 1.9 million Americans met criteria for prescription painkillers use disorder based on their use of prescription painkillers in the year before the survey was conducted.
  • 1.4 million people used prescription painkillers non-medically for the first time in the previous year.
  • The average age for prescription painkiller first-time use was an estimated 21.2 years.

Who’s most likely to be using opioid pills?

Prescription opioid use varies according to age, gender, and ethnicity, but reaches the highest marks in the following demographics:

  • Adults aged 40 years and older are more likely to use prescription opioids than adults aged 20 – 39 years.
  • Women are more likely to use prescription opioids than men.
  • Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to use prescription opioids than Hispanics. There are no significant differences in prescription opioid use between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks.

How do they obtain the medications?

People who abuse prescription opioids get them through various routes, including:

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  • Using their own prescriptions – 27%
  • From friends or relatives for free – 26%
  • Buying from friends or relatives – 23%
  • Buying from a drug dealer – 15%

Opioid pill use questions

Do you need information about prescription opioid pill use, or would like to learn how you can safely quit painkillers? Help is available on 1-877-721-6695 anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you have any further questions about pill use, abuse, or opioid addiction treatment, please feel free to send them to us. Simply post them in the comments section in at the end of the page and we’ll do our best to answer to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

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Reference Sources: CDC: Opioid Overdose Prescribing Data
NIDA: America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
SAMHSA: Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Hello to everyone reading this blog. I am conducting a research paper in regards to the opioid epidemic that has taken countless amount of lives and is on its way to take more if not stopped. The opioid epidemic is seen to increase daily as it is not only introduced to those who are not in need but also introduced to newer generations who have a long lifespan to look forward to. Based on my research that has led me to my thesis, this epidemic is effecting those who face disorders of anxiety and depression along with the contribution of physicians that overprescribe and the exceeding marketing of pharmaceutical companies that glorify types of addiction. The blog’s statistics prove my thesis further by stating that most Americans are prescribed opioids in office settings who are seen for non-cancer treatment. The opioid addiction thus leads abusers to obtain other forms of synthetic drugs which are deadly. The addiction epidemic needs help from all sources to decrease the amount of lives it is capturing by enhancing accessibility to treatment facilities along with expanding education and increasing controls over prescriptions.

  2. I have ostio and had my hip replaced dew to bones crumbling but I’ve still got a lot of pain in my feet .when cold it hurts like he’ll ..I’m on 200mg of lyrics 3 times a day and 60 mg of tylex .why do I still get pain

    1. Hi Alan. I suggest that you consult with your doctor. Maybe, you’ll need change and/or adaptations in your medications. Also, you may enroll into a pain clinic for a second opinion.

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