Opioid Facts for Teens
Letter to Teens

You have probably heard a lot about the “opioid overdose crisis” in the news lately. But what are opioids? And why are they such a problem?

You might not realize this, but if you have had a sports injury, dental work, or surgery, it is possible your doctor gave you a pain reliever that was actually an opioid medication. While opioids can be very effective at treating pain, they can be very addictive and should only be used under a doctor’s careful watch.

In addition to opioids given to you by a doctor, there is another kind of opioid you have probably heard about called heroin. Heroin is a very dangerous drug that is usually used by injecting it directly into a vein with a needle. The chemical makeup of heroin is the same as that of pain relievers and both can be very addictive and cause deadly opioid overdoses. In fact, 2.14 million people ages 12 and older had an opioid use disorder in 2016, including 153,000 12- to 17-year-olds.1

Our goal is to give you the facts so you can make smart choices and be your best self. We hope that you will use this booklet to share information about opioids with your friends, parents, teachers, and others.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse