Protecting Your Family

America's Opioid Epidemic

What is the Opioid Crisis?

This guide features information and resources you can use to protect your loved ones from the threat of opioid addiction. Decades of over-prescription, along with wide-spread misconceptions about drug addiction, have led to a shocking rise in overdose deaths. The devastation is pervasive, leaving families of every type and communities of every size grieving and searching for answers in the wake.1

us opioid OD deaths
2.1 million people effected

2.1 Million People

Will misuse opiates for the first time, with/or without a prescription.

deaths by commonly prescribed Opioids


The number of Americans that will die from an opioid related overdose.

Heroin Use


The number of Americans expected to use Heroin for the first time.

First-time heroin users


The number of Americans that are currently addicted to Heroin.

Synthetic Opioid Deaths

9,580 People

will die as result of a synthetic opioid overdose. Opioids are now responsible for taking more lives than guns or car accidents in the U.S.


$78.5 Billion

The estimated economic cost for additional healthcare and criminal justice services.2

Who does the Opioid Epidemic Hurt the Most?

Opioid pain-killers and drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.5



Children may unknowingly ingest pain medication, and very easily overdose. The number of children in foster care has risen sharply alongside the number of overdose deaths.6



Not only is the use of Rx Opioids among adolescents high, 7 out of 10 of those surveyed also combined opioids with other substances, such as alcohol, which increases the risk of overdose.7

military veterans


A 2016 study by the VA found that 68,000 veterans are currently addicted to opiate pain medication. The opioid crisis continues to impact even the strongest among us.

The Signs of Opiate Abuse

Addictions of all types have a wide range of negative consequences that can tear apart even the strongest relationships. With prolonged use, an opiate addict will experience strong physical and psychological dependancies to the drug. Without the right support and intervention, it is unlikely that the addict will be able to overcome their habit.

Physical, Psychological & Behavioral Symptoms

If someone you care about displays any of the following symptoms, they may be addicted:


  • Small (Constricted) pupils
  • Extreme drowsiness, i.e. nodding off during conversation
  • Sweating
  • Chronic constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Shallow breathing
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to pain


  • Mood swings between euphoria and irritable
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Paranoia
  • "Spaced-out"
  • Unexplained personality or attitude changes
  • Unusual fear


  • Financial difficulties
  • Theft
  • Lack of interest in hobbies
  • Poor personal hygiene and appearance
  • Fighting
  • Neglecting responsibilities: work, school, home, etc...
  • Secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends

Are You at Risk?

Legal prescription medications are fueling the crisis.

perscriptions and overdose deaths
The number of prescription pain killers subscribed by county and the number of deaths attributed to Opioid overdose. CDC data: 2014-2015 3 4

Finding Help

Quality Treatment & Support

  1. Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  2. No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
  3. Treatment needs to be readily available.
  4. Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.
  5. Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical.
  6. Behavioral therapies—including individual, family, or group counseling—are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment.
  7. Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.
  8. An individual's treatment and services plan must be assessed continually and modified as necessary to ensure that it meets his or her changing needs.
  9. Many drug-addicted individuals also have other mental disorders.
  10. Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse.
  11. Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.
  12. Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur.
  13. Treatment programs should test patients for the presence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as provide targeted risk-reduction counseling, linking patients to treatment if necessary.

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What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a highly regulated class of drugs, commonly used in anesthesia and for the treatment chronic or severe pain. They are powerfully addictive, easily abused, and lethal at a wide range of doses. Due to their euphoria inducing effects, opiates are often misused recreationally. Through careless "over-prescription" practices, millions of Americans are now "hooked" on these deadly medications and their illegal counter-parts.

The Most Common Opioids

There are no safe opiates.
Brand and generic drug names may create confusion. Do you know what's in your medicine cabinet?

  • DANGEROUS!Oxycontin, Roxicodone, Xtampza ER, and Oxaydo


    Oxycodone is the generic name for the semisynthetic opiate derived from thebaine, an opioid alkaline(salt). This powerful drug is responsible for thousands of accidental deaths, typically resulting from the intentional breach of it's extended release coating.

    Common Brand Names for Oxycodone
  • DANGEROUS!Norco, Vicodin, Lorcet, Hycet, Zamicet


    Derived from Codeine, Hydrocodone, or dihydrocodeinone, is the generic name for this commonly prescribed semi-synthetic opiate. This drug is available as a generic and is also marketed under a wide array of brand names, which usually include some combination of additional medications, such as the anti-inflammatory foods Acetaminophen.

    Common Brand Names for Hydrocodone
  • DANGEROUS!Duragesic, Subsys, Abstral, and Ionsys


    The synthetic Fentanyl (aka Fentanil), is a highly potent Opioid which closely mimics the morphine molecule. It can be anywhere from 50-1000% more powerful than morphine. You read that correctly: One-thousand percent. This drug was originally approved by the FDA as a patch, it is now available orally as lollipops and sprays as well as typical pill form, which have likely contributed to it's appeal as a recreational drug, thereby leading to steep rise in Fentanil related deaths.

    Common Brand Names for Fentanyl
  • DANGEROUS!Codeine in Tylenol 3 tablet


    Widely prescribed as a cough medicine, usually as a prescription syrup, Codeine is a naturally occuring compound found in opium. The FDA now restricts the use of codeine in pediatric patients, as children 12 appear to suffer an increased risk for the drugs adverse side-effects, particularly slow or difficult breathing and death.

    Common Brand Names for Codeine
  • DANGEROUS!Duramorph, Infumorph P/F, MS Contin, and Astramorph-PF


    The naturally occuring morphine molecule, has been in use since the early 19th century. In addition to presenting the dangerous side effects typical of all opioids: strong physical and emotional addiction, respiratory depression leading to death, Morphine is also used to make Heroin.

    Common Brand Names for Morphine


    Responsible for a majority of opioid overdose death's in the U.S., Heroin is a Schedule 1 Narcotic, with no accepted medical use. Heroin use continues to rise alongside prescription opioid use, which has led many experts to the conclusion the opiate derived medications can act as gateway to more destructive drugs.

    The dangers of Heroin
  • Safe Opioid Disposal

    Never leave unused opioids in an unsecured location such as an unlocked medicine cabinet. Dispose of unused/expired medication by following these DEA recommendations:

    • Check the bottle for specific disposal instructions. Follow as directed.
    • Bring unused, unnecessary, or expired opioids to either a national or local take-back event.
    • If no program is available, do the following:
      1. Remove medications from the original bottles
      2. Mix with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or used cat litter
      3. Seal them in a disposable container or bag
      4. Throw away in the garbage
    • Do not flush unused opioids down the toilet. This can damage the water supply!


Thank you for reading our Opioid Crisis Guide. We hope that the information you learned will help you effectively communicate the dangers of these drugs with your family and friends. Please share it! With your help, we can make a real difference in our homes, schools, and communities.

With your help, we can raise awareness on this growing crisis, encourage communication and support. Sterling Lawyers, LLC is a family law firm dedicated to building strong families. Together we can make a difference in our communities.