HOUSTON-- It's an epidemic that's been sweeping the nation for years and now opioid addiction has skyrocketed to become one of the leading causes of deaths in the US.
According to the CDC, opioids and heroin kill more than 33,000 people every year, surpassing the number of gun-related deaths.
Opioids that are found in prescription painkillers can be highly addictive.
Frequent users can build a tolerance and become highly dependent on the drug making it hard to withdraw from, often times causing the user to try harder drugs.
In fact, the National Institutes of Health said three in four new heroin users start by abusing prescription drugs.
In a recent study, Blue Cross Blue Shield found that the number of commercially-insured members diagnosed with 'opioid use disorder' went up 493 percent from 2010 through 2016.
The BCBS analysis also found that women 45 and older had higher rates of abuse than men.
Female overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have jumped more than 400 percent versus a 265 percent increase for men.
In general, the study said women fill more opioid prescriptions than men across all age groups.