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What is an opioid?

Opioids are prescription-only pain-relieving drugs. There are several different kinds of opioids such as oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl, or morphine. When used as directed by a doctor, prescription opioids can safely control pain. Illegal opioids include drugs like heroin or synthetic fentanyl.

How do opioids work?

Opioids work by acting on certain receptors in the brain to help block pain. They also produce a chemical in your brain called dopamine. Dopamine can lead to feelings of calmness and pleasure. This increase in dopamine can cause people to seek those feelings of pleasure over and over. Many people may begin abusing prescription opioids without even realizing it.

Opioids can be habit forming. Taking too much over a long period of time can lead to both tolerance (needing more of a substance over time) and dependence (needing the substance to avoid withdrawal).

Possible signs of opioid addiction:

Physical signs

Noticeable elation or euphoria, sedation or drowsiness, confusion, very small pupils.

Behavioral signs

Shifting or dramatically changing moods, social withdrawal or isolation, financial problems, anxiety.

What is an opioid overdose?

An overdose is when a person has taken too much of an opioid for their body to handle. Their breathing and heart rate slows, leading to unconsciousness. If medical attention is not received, in most cases, it can lead to death.

Opioid overdose requires immediate medical attention.

If you suspect someone is in active overdose, call 911 immediately. If possible, administer Naloxone/Narcan. If you suspect someone is in active overdose, call 911 immediately. If possible, administer Naloxone/Narcan.

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone, or known by its brand name Narcan, is an antidote for an active opioid overdose. If administered during an opioid overdose, it can save a life. Anyone can administer Naloxone.

Request a Narcan for free through the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition.

If I think someone I know has an addiction to opioids, how can I help?

The first step can be the most difficult one. If you believe your loved one is having a hard time with misusing opioids, let them know that you love and support them.

Explore the resources below to learn more about what to do, or call us now to talk to someone who can help you.

Opioid resources by county

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