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Home > Opioid overdose.

World Health Organization. (2020) Opioid overdose. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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Key facts

  • The term “opioids” includes compounds that are extracted from the poppy seed as well as semisynthetic and synthetic compounds with similar properties that can interact with opioid receptors in the brain.
  • Opioids are commonly used for the treatment of pain, and include medicines such as morphine, fentanyl and tramadol.
  • Their non-medical use, prolonged use, misuse and use without medical supervision can lead to opioid dependence and other health problems.
  • Due to their pharmacological effects, opioids can cause breathing difficulties, and opioid overdose can lead to death.
  • Worldwide, about 0.5 million deaths are attributable to drug use. More than 70% of these deaths are related to opioids, with more than 30% of those deaths caused by overdose.
  • There are effective treatment interventions for opioid dependence that can decrease the risk of overdose, yet less than 10% of people who need such treatment are receiving it.
  • The medication naloxone can prevent death from an opioid overdose if administered in time.
Item Type
Publication Type
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
August 2020
World Health Organization
Corporate Creators
World Health Organization
Place of Publication

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