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Opioids: What You Should Know

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About prescription opioids

Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They are intended to treat moderate to severe pain and are often prescribed after surgery, an injury, or for health conditions like cancer.

About other opioids

Medications are not the only form of opioids. Drugs like heroin and illicitly-made fentanyl and fentanyl analogs are also present in Oregon, and contribute to the opioid crisis.

  • Pharmaceutical opioids diverted from medical use
  • Illicitly made fentanyl, and drugs like it called “analogs.” This includes drugs sold on the street that may look like pharmaceutical drugs, but contain powerful illicit opioids
  • Heroin

In 2013, 1 in 4 Oregonians got a prescription for opioids

The problem

People are more likely to die from illicit fentanyl overdose, because it is many times more potent than other opioids and may require additional naloxone to reverse overdoses compared to other opioids.

Illicit opioids like fentanyl are sold through illicit drug markets, and buyers or users may not even know the drug they’re buying contains fentanyl. Illicitly made fentanyl and analogs have resulted in a dramatic increase in deaths in the US.

If your doctor prescribes you opioid pain medication

  • Talk to your doctor about the benefits, risks and limitations of prescription pain medications, and other options to manage your pain. Be sure to tell your doctor about other medications you are taking.
  • Let your doctor know if you have a history of substance use disorder or a mental health disorder.
  • Use the smallest amount of medication for the fewest number of days.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery while taking opioids for pain.
  • Store prescription pain medications in a SAFE, SECURE place, out of reach of others. Be aware of how much medication you have, and monitor the quantity.
  • Use prescription pain medications only as instructed by your doctor. To help prevent misuse, do not sell or share your medication. Never use another person's prescription pain medication.
  • Make a plan with your doctor for when and how to stop, if a choice is made to use prescription pain medications.
  • Make sure any unused medication is properly disposed of once it is no longer needed. View a map of places where you can safely drop off unused medications or learn more about drug take-back and disposal.

See also...

Tame the Beast: It's time to rethink persistent pain

Lock it up: Medicine safety in your home

How to manage your pain safely and effectively (CDC website)

Opioid use disorder

People who take opioids, even for short term acute pain management, can develop an opioid use disorder. Using opioid pain medication can lead to a lifelong struggle with misuse and dependency that impacts a person's relationships, employment, finances, family and community.

Getting help for opioid use disorder

Opioid use disorder can be successfully treated. If you or a loved one need help to stop using opioids, talk to your health care provider or view our list of resources for getting help.

Consider getting trained to use Naloxone

Naloxone is a medication that can be used to reverse an opioid overdose. Oregon law allows lay people to carry and use naloxone on others. Learn more about naloxone.

See also...

What happens during an overdose

When someone takes too much prescription pain medication:

  • Pupils become very small, sometimes called "pinpoint" pupils
  • The person may throw up, or make snoring, gurgling or choking sounds
  • Breathing gets very slow or stops
  • The person may turn pale, blue or gray, especially the lips or fingernails
  • The person may become unconscious, become limp or not respond to yelling or other stimulation
IF YOU SEE THESE SIGNS: The most important thing is to act right away. CALL 911.

If you call police or 911 to get help for someone having a drug overdose, Oregon law protects you from being arrested or prosecuted for drug-related charges or parole/probation violations based on information provided to emergency responders. Read the law (pdf).


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