Opioids & Their Risks Explained

Heroin and other opioids are ravaging communities across America. Deaths from heroin increased 328% between 2010 and 2015, and drug deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are now seeing a sharp rise as well. More Americans die from drug overdoses than in car crashes, and this increasing trend is driven by Rx painkillers.

The time to take action against this epidemic is now.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids – natural or synthetic, illicit or otherwise – act on the body’s opioid receptors and all carry similarly high risks of dependency, addiction and overdose.

Heroin is the most commonly known opioid, and as an illicit drug, it poses additional risks beyond simply being a powerful drug. Morphine, too, is well-known for its use in medical contexts.

But opioids also include common prescription pain relievers, such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. If misused or abused, these drugs can cause severe harm.

Complicating the landscape even more is fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. These can be used on their own or be unknowingly mixed into heroin or pills. Deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids rose 72% in just one year.

What Happens When Someone is Addicted to Opioids?

Opioids have a strong risk of addiction, meaning their use or misuse can create brain changes that lead to addiction. A person who is addicted develops an overpowering urge, or craving, for the drug. The person also experiences a loss of control and painful withdrawal symptoms, making it more difficult to refuse the drug, even when use becomes harmful. Most people who are addicted to opioids cannot taper off (use less of the drug over time) without help.

One of the outcomes of the current opioid epidemic is an increased rate of intravenous (IV) drug use — meaning directly injecting opioids or other substances into a vein. Watch this short series of videos to better understand:

  • The relationship between opioid addiction and IV drug use
  • The additional risks created by IV use
  • How to spot early warning signs and, most importantly
  • Become better equipped to help a loved one

 

What Is The Link Between Prescription Drugs and The Opioid Epidemic?

Nearly half of young people who inject heroin start by misusing prescription (Rx) pain medicine which are opioids. Explore this interactive infographic to better understand and get a more complete picture.

Why is Fentanyl Even More Dangerous than Heroin?

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Learn more about what to do as a parent to help protect your child from fentanyl.

What Can I Do?

Take steps to protect your child and family from the dangers of opioids >>

Understanding the Epidemic & What You Can Do

Get all of our resources and information on protecting your community and helping a loved one together in our latest eBook.

Heroin, Fentanyl & Other Opioids eBook