Forty-five percent of Americans who use opioid prescription painkillers do not realize they are taking an opioid, or that the drug is just as addictive as heroin, according to a National Safety Councilsurvey. In fact, opioid painkillers and heroin have nearly identical chemical makeups and produce the same effects.
Drug overdoses, largely from opioid painkillers, are a leading cause of unintentional injury death for American adults. The epidemic is a primary focus of National Safety Month, observed each June.
“Americans should not be fooled: an opioid painkiller is the equivalent of legal heroin,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “The drugs in our medicine cabinets can be just as addictive as illicit ones.”
Other Council survey findings exposed additional disconnects in education and behaviors around opioid painkiller use. The survey found nearly 9 in 10 opioid painkiller users are not concerned about addiction, despite 67 percent saying they believe the drugs are more addictive than other types of prescriptions.
The survey also showed many people are not familiar with formulary names. Just 29 percent of survey respondents said they had taken an opioid painkiller, but that increased to 42 percent when they saw common opioid brand names such as Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin.