For the first time in history, Americans' risk for dying from an opioid overdose is higher than their risk for dying in a car accident, the National Safety Council reported Monday. Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects.

Medically they are primarily used for pain relief, including anesthesia. Other medical uses include suppression of diarrhea, replacement therapy for  opioid use disorder , reversing opioid overdose, suppressing cough, suppressing opioid induced constipation, as well as for executions in the United States.

Extremely potent opioids such as carfentanil are only approved for veterinary use . Opioids are also commonly used non-medically for their euphoric effects or to prevent withdrawal.

Side effects

Side effects of opioids may include itchiness, sedation, nausea, respiratory depression, constipation, and euphoria. Tolerance and dependence will develop with continuous use, requiring increasing doses and leading to withdrawal syndrome upon discontinuation discontinuation. The euphoria attracts recreational use and frequent, escalating recreational use of opioids typically results in addiction.

An overdose or concurrent use with other  depressant drugs  results in death from respiratory depression. The chances of dying from an accidental opioid overdose in the United States are compared with a one-in-103 risk for dying in a traffic accident, according to the new analysis of preventable deaths in the council's  Injury Factspublication.

The opioid crisis is the reason why opioid overdoses are now at the top of the list, and that crisis is worsening with an influence of illicit fentanyl. The analysis of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also shows that there are three leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States, with a lifetime risk of one in 114, an increase from one in 119 a few years ago.

Preventable injuries are the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming 169,936 lives in 2017. Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death. Of the three leading causes of death, preventable injuries were the only category with an increase in 2017. A person's lifetime risk for dying from any preventable, accidental cause is one in 25 compared with one in 30 in 2004.

Other new data in the report show that bicycle deaths rose 28% in 2016; sports and recreational injuries disproportionately affect youngsters aged 5 to 14 years old; most fatal falls occur in December and January; men are more likely than women to die from preventable causes; and preventable deaths far outnumber intentional deaths.