What are opioids?
Prescribed opioids are used to help people feel less pain after surgery or accidents and to treat addiction to other opioids. When used illegally, opioids cause a “high.”
For years, many doctors prescribed large amounts of pain medicines because researchers said patients in pain could not become addicted to them. We now know this is not true and that many people became addicted to opioids while taking these medications, as they were told.
- Prescribed medications to treat pain, such as oxycodone (Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab), pethidine (Demerol), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), fentanyl (Duragesic), Tylenol with Codeine, morphine, and Tramadol (Ultram)
- Drugs used to treat addiction to opioids, such as methadone (Dolophine), buprenorphine (Suboxone & Subutex)
- Illegal drugs such as heroin, fentanyl, carfentanyl, opium, or any pain medication that is not yours.
What opioids do to people
Opioids cause euphoria—feelings of well-being, joy, and intense pleasure. Opioids also reduce or take away emotional and physical pain. Taking opioids regularly will lead you to develop tolerance – which means you must take larger and more frequent doses to feel pain-free or to feel good. Regular use and larger doses also lead to addiction. Addiction is when your mind and body tell you to take opioids, even if you don’t have a medical reason to take them.
Let your doctor know if you feel like you need more pain medicine or if you start to take more pills than prescribed. This could be a sign you’re becoming addicted.
When you are addicted to opioids and decide to cut back or stop using them, you will go through withdrawal. It can feel like the worst flu you’ve ever had. Withdrawal symptoms may include muscle and bone pain, muscle spasms, cold flashes with goose bumps, vomiting, and not sleeping. Withdrawal is normal. Your doctor can help. Going through withdrawal without a plan or the aid of your doctor is called going “cold turkey.” Quitting cold turkey may make withdrawal seem much worse.
Taking too many opioids can cause an overdose. People who overdose on opioids breathe very slowly, sometimes so slowly you can’t see them breathe, which can cause them to die.
Addiction and deaths from opioids are a big problem in Gaston County. Often, people will buy and use pills not prescribed for them. This is against the law and is dangerous. Sometimes people stop using pills and start injecting heroin because it costs less or is easier to get. Sharing needles and syringes can cause bad infections, and can spread HIV and Hepatitis C, which are painful and deadly.
Older persons who have trouble with their memory, people with breathing problems, and those who smoke have a high risk of overdosing. You also have a high risk if you use opioids with alcohol or benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin, because they lower your heart and breathing rate.
What an overdose may look like
People having an overdose may have one or more of these symptoms:
- Do not feel pain–they do not move when you pinch their ear or under their arm, or rub their breastbone or the tip of their nose with your knuckles
- Pass out or become unconscious
- Cannot talk even when they are awake
- Breathe very slowly, not deeply, or stop breathing
- A heartbeat or pulse that is slow, not regular, or is hard to feel
- A limp body
- A very pale or damp face
- Fingernails and lips that turn blue or purple
- Make choking sounds, or a gurgling noise
- Throw up
People overdosing may seem drunk, but don’t let them sleep it off. Take them to the Emergency Department or call 911. In North Carolina, the 911 Good Samaritan / Naloxone Access Law says people who overdose, or persons who get help for them, cannot get in trouble for having small amounts of drugs, drug supplies, or for underage drinking.
The person who calls 911 must give their name to 911, or the police, to get this protection.
A person who gets medical assistance for someone that overdoses cannot get in trouble for a parole, probation, or post-release violation, even if they are arrested. The person that overdoses is also protected.
Tips for preventing overdoses
The best way not to overdose is not to use drugs. If you do, please:
- Know what drug you are taking, its strength, and if it is short-acting, long-acting, or extended-release. If you don’t know, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or look it up at here
- Take your medications as prescribed.
- Don’t mix drugs including opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, and cocaine.
- Don’t take any medications with alcohol.
- Bring a complete list of all medications you take to all of your medical visits.
Do I have a problem?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may have a problem with pain pills:
- Are you using someone else’s medicine?
- Are you getting drugs from someone other than your doctor?
- Are you using medicine for comfort and not your sickness or injury?
- Are you lying about or hiding when you take medicine?
- Are you getting pain medications from several doctors?
- Do your friends, family, or co-workers say they’re worried about you?
- Do you often think about your drugs, your next dose, and how you will get more?
- Are you taking your medicine with other drugs or alcohol?
- Are you taking your medicine how you want and not how the label tells you – for example, taking it more often, more at one time, or by snorting or injecting it?
How do I get help?
Opioid addiction can be
- Peer Support Services
- Outpatient Counseling and Therapy
- Outpatient Treatment using Naltrexone (Celupan, Vivitrex, and Vivitrol) combined with therapy
- Rehabilitation and Detoxification Facilities
- Opioid Replacement Therapy (methadone, buprenorphine, Subutex)
To talk about your addiction and get help, call Partners Behavioral Health Management. What you say will not be shared with others … Call 1-888-235-HOPE (4673). Pregnant women using drugs and people injecting drugs receive priority scheduling. You will receive the first open appointment possible.
If you inject pain medication or heroin, you can join the free NC Syringe Access program and get free supplies like syringes to avoid getting HIV and Hepatitis C. You can also get rid of your old needles, cotton, and other supplies with no risk of arrest … Call Olive Branch Ministry at 1-828-291-7023.