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This Is What Happens to Your Brain on Opioids

Driven by opioid addiction, drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Opioids are part of a drug class that includes the illegal drug heroin and powerful pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and many others. In 2015, more than 33,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids. Every day in the United States more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.

Lily Fang's animation, Susan’s Brain, is part of a free online course produced by HarvardX and Harvard Health Publications. The course, The Opioid Crisis in America, challenges preconceptions about addiction and about who can become addicted to opioids, and this animation illustrates changes in the brain that lead to addiction. Dr. Elena Chartoff and Dr. Hilary Connery, both of Boston’s McLean Hospital advised on the brain science within this animation. This video is provided courtesy of the President’s and Fellows of Harvard College © 2017.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. To submit a film for consideration, please email sfs@natgeo.com. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.