Opioid Misuse

Opioids are natural or synthetic chemicals that reduce feelings of pain. Common prescription opioid pain relievers include: Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Oxycodone (OxyContin), Oxymorphone (Opana), Methadone, and Fentanyl.[ Reference 1 ]Acute and chronic pain affects large numbers of individuals in the United States (U.S.), with approximately 100 million who report chronic pain.[ Reference 2 ] Many of these individuals are prescribed opioid medication to treat this pain.[ Reference 3 ] In the U.S., the number of those using prescription opioids is increasing with seven percent of adults identified as prescription opioid users in 2000 compared with almost 12 percent in 2010.[ Reference 4 ] Opioid medications are generally safe when taken as prescribed for a short period of time, but they can be misused as they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief. Regular opioid use can produce dependence, and when misused, can lead to fatal overdose.[ Reference 5 ] Unintentional overdose deaths from misuse of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, surpassing those involving heroin and cocaine. [ Reference 6 ]

In the military, the number of Service members diagnosed with opioid drug dependence or opioid abuse is very low (less than 1 percent) and decreased by 38 percent between 2012 and 2016; likewise, opiate positive drug tests among service members also has declined. The number of opioid-related deaths in the military is also lower than that of the civilian population. [ Reference 7 ]


  1. Centers for Disease Control. (2017). Commonly used terms. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/terms.html.

  2. Relieving pain in America: a blueprint for transforming prevention, care, education, and research. (2011). Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.

  3. Johannes, C. B., Le, T. K., Zhou, X., Johnston, J. A., & Dworkin, R. H. (2010). The Prevalence of Chronic Pain in United States Adults: Results of an Internet-Based Survey. The Journal of Pain, 11(11), 1230-1239. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2010.07.002.

  4. Sites, B. D., Beach, M. L., & Davis, M. A. (2014). Increases in the Use of Prescription Opioid Analgesics and the Lack of Improvement in Disability Metrics Among Users. Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, 39(1), 6-12. doi:10.1097/aap.0000000000000022.

  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids.

  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Misuse of prescription drugs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescript....

  7. Department of Defense. (2017). House Report 114–537, Page 174, Accompanying H.R. 4909, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017: Report on Prescription Opioid Abuse and Effects on Readiness. Retrieved from: https%3A%2F%2Fhealth.mil%2FReference-Center%2FReports%2F2017%2F10%2F29%2FPrescription-Opioid-Abuse-and-Effects-on-Readiness&usg=AOvVaw3nmTmRD-Dr-NwHjK5-tInC.