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Looking at the Opioid Crisis Worldwide

Are Opioids a Worldwide Problem?

Opioid addiction in America is a major problem, and in 2020, about 130 people nationwide died each day from associated overdoses.1 Its prevalence in the US has, unfortunately, become extremely widespread. But are these occurrences also prevalent in other communities around the world, or is the opioid epidemic a uniquely American problem? Our team at Banyan’s Heartland Treatment Center explores the opioid crisis worldwide and how other countries interact and utilize these infamous substances. 

Opioid Addiction Worldwide 

While opioid addiction in America is at epidemic levels, opioid addiction worldwide is different in its scope. In Japan and countries throughout Europe, insurers are less likely to cover opioids for pain, and doctors may be more hesitant to prescribe these types of pills. The United States has 4.4% of the world’s population but prescribes around 30% of the total opioids in the world.2 

Other countries have more stringent regulations, and the marketing of prescription drugs to doctors is incredibly limited.3 These tighter regulations on the marketing of prescription drugs have helped to decrease the risks of opioid addiction worldwide, with doctors in other countries less likely to prescribe opioids for pain than their counterparts in the US. 

The Roles of American Pharmacies and Doctors 

Numerous factors contributed to the shocking epidemic we are now facing, including aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies in the late 1990s. Even today, lawsuits against big-name companies like CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens seek to highlight their complicity in the crisis. Walmart’s lawsuit was recently settled in November of 2022, with the company agreeing to pay $3.1 billion in damages to resolve thousands of suits. Of that amount, $89 million are to be dedicated to native American tribes that have been affected.4 

Patient satisfaction surveys are also worsening the opioid epidemic, with far too many medical professionals scrambling to prescribe painkillers like oxycodone and OxyContin to ensure patients are satisfied with their treatments. Without these prescriptions, the negative results of these surveys can have a drastic effect on the standing of the doctor, any associated hospitals, and the medical system. It feeds into a vicious cycle that clearly does not solve the problem at hand but just slaps a temporary band-aid on the wound. 

Opioid Overdose Signs 

Opioid abuse can result in the death of the user if not addressed in a timely manner. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 500,000 deaths around the globe can be attributed to drug use. Of that amount, 70% are related to opioid abuse, with 30% caused by overdose.5 These staggering numbers highlight the importance of recognizing the symptoms before it is too late. 

Symptoms of opioid overdose can include: 

  • Intense sleepiness or an inability to stay awake 
  • Skin that is pale or clammy to the touch 
  • Limpness in the body 
  • Constricted pinpoint pupils 
  • Gurgling noises or vomiting 
  • Little to no breathing 
  • Dangerously slowed heart rate 
  • Blue discoloration of the lips and fingernails 

Opioids suppress many of the body’s functions, including respiratory. This can result in the presentation of a “death rattle,” which is characterized by a breath being exhaled along with a noticeably labored sound from the throat. If you come across a person suffering from an overdose, call 911 immediately. While waiting for emergency services to arrive, attempt Naloxone administration, if available. Naloxone is a drug that will reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and can help a person hang on until they receive the care they need. 

Treating Opioid Addiction 

While the effect of the opioid crisis worldwide is not as intensely experienced in non-American countries, drug abuse is still present in many areas around the globe. At Banyan, we offer Heartland detox, residential treatment, and IOP drug treatment to help our patients overcome their dependencies. We also offer alumni programs and optional PHP Illinois addiction treatment. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we are here to help you reach it. If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid abuse, we encourage you to reach out for help.  

Our opioid addiction treatment programs are designed to help men and women build lasting tools of sobriety while addressing all aspects of their addictions. Call 888-280-4763 to learn more about the programs available at our Gilman, IL, Banyan rehab today. 



  1. NIH – Opioid Overdose Crisis 
  2. Vox – Why it's so much easier to get an opioid prescription in the US than in Europe or Japan 
  3. Medical Xpress – Opioid crisis: Only a US phenomenon? 
  4. NY Times Walmart Agrees to Pay $3.1 Billion to Settle Opioid Lawsuits 
  5. WHO – Opioid Overdose 


Related Reading 

Opioid Drug Trafficking in the US 

Opioid Addiction in the Elderly 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Looking at the Opioid Crisis Worldwide
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