• Mayo Clinic Minute: Facts on the opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic continues to affect thousands in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from prescription opioid medications — drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine — have more than quadrupled since 1999. Deaths from illicit drugs, such as heroin, also continue to be a major issue. Dr. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and pain specialist, has the latest on what the opioid epidemic entails.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:00) is in the downloads. Read the script.

What exactly is the opioid epidemic? Is it about prescription drugs or heroin?

“It’s a combination of both problems.”

Dr. Hooten says back in the mid- to late 1990s …

“... opioids were being recommended to treat chronic pain. The problems associated with long-term opioid use include, probably the most important is, addiction to the medication.”

Today, the term for opioid addiction is “opioid use disorder.”

“Symptoms of opioid use disorder include, primarily, an increasing preoccupation with the medications. So individuals will start organizing their lives and organizing their daily structure around taking that particular medication.”

And for some struggling with severe addiction, if they can’t get medication from their health care providers, they may turn to heroin. But you can break an opioid addiction.

“There are other nonopioid medications that can be helpful. There are other behavioral interventions that can help individuals learn to manage and cope with pain.”

Related articles