Stunning new data was released this week as part of an ongoing series of lawsuits that have been brought against opioid makers. As reported in the Washington Post, detailed information from a previously unreleased Drug Enforcement Administration database shows the scale of this addictive drug crisis in ways we have not previously seen.

The database was compiled from sales and distribution data provided to the DEA by the opioid makers themselves. It contains detailed info on where opioid pills were shipped and purchased down to a town by town level. Opioid manufacturers fought for over a year to keep this database secret, but a ruling by an Ohio federal court saw the information released to the public this week.

This newly released data shines a spotlight on just how enormous the opioid epidemic has become. Some key facts and figures that researchers have uncovered so far show:

  • Yearly opioid shipments increased around 50% from 2006 to 2012.
  • The total number of pills shipped, over 76 billion, would have been enough to supply every person living in the United States with 36 pills each year.
  • In some states, such as West Virginia, the number of pills distributed each year per person was even higher. Each year, every West Virginian could have been supplied with over 60 opioid pills because of the high number of opioids sold in the state.
  • Focusing down to the city level, the numbers look even more outrageous in some rural locations. In Norton, Virginia, a town with a population of roughly 4,000 people, enough opioids were sold to supply each person with 306 pills each year!

Over the last two decades, the questionable sales and prescriptions of opioids like oxycodone have generated massive profits for the companies producing them. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives after becoming addicted to those same drugs. This latest release of disturbing information just further illustrates how large a crisis the opioid epidemic has become.