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Heroin and Opioid Awareness

Heroin and Opioid Awareness

Opioid and prescription drug abuse have become America's fastest-growing drug problem and have devastated communities across the country. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and opioids are the most common drug used in cases of drug overdose. Since the start of the 21st century, our Nation has lost nearly the same number of lives to the opioid crisis as we lost in World War II.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is working closely with its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners; the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Diversion Groups; and various task forces, including the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), to combat this epidemic. Because it is a multi-faceted epidemic, we are working with communities, educators, and service providers to promote awareness of the dangers of opioids and prescription drugs, to share information, and to coordinate training.


  • In 2020, 91,799 people died in the United States from a drug overdose68,630 of those deaths were the result of opioids.
  • In 2020, there were 832 drug overdose deaths in Nevada.
  • From 1999 to 2020, more than 263,000 people died in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were more than five times higher from 1999 to 2020. 
  • Veterans are twice as likely as the general population to die from an opioid overdose, according to a study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health. 


What is an Opioid?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. Common street names include "Oxy," "Vikes," and "Percs."















Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Other common names for heroin include big Hhorsehell dust, and smack

  • 80% of heroin users reported misusing prescription pills before they started heroin.



As a result of the past Take Back Days nationwide, the DEA and its partners have collected and removed a total of over 15.9 million pounds (7,995 tons) of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications. For additional information about National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, visit

The next Take Back Day will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2024. 


Chasing the Dragon: the life of an opiate addict
Click to view the video Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict
Updated April 17, 2024