Get the
opioid facts you need


By recognizing the signs of overdose, knowing how to respond, and acting quickly you can save a life!

The opioid epidemic is one of the largest drug problems recorded in U.S. history. While you may have heard about opioids in the news, from classmates, or perhaps at school, there is a lot of information to sort through. Even if you get opioids or pills from a doctor, they can still be dangerous! Use the information below to increase your knowledge, take charge of your own health and possibly save a life.

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What are Opioids?

Some opioid medications are made from the poppy plant, while others are made by scientists in a lab. Opioids include prescription medications used to treat pain, as well as fentanyl and heroin.

Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioids or pills are prescribed by doctors to treat really bad pain such as sports injuries, dental work, cancer, and severe chronic pain. When taken as prescribed, they are reasonably safe and can reduce someone's pain for both the short, and long term. But even though they are prescribed by a doctor they can have serious risks and side effects when misused or not taken as prescribed. Common types include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, Percocet and codeine.

Heroin

Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive opioid that is typically injected, but can also be snorted or smoked. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder, but also sold as "black tar" heroin which is sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl is an opioid drug that is 50x more powerful than heroin. Medically, it is used to treat severe pain and for surgeries. It is now being made illegally, sold on the streets for its "heroin like" effect and often mixed with heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, imitation or fake pills and other drugs - with or without the individual who is taking its knowledge. Due to its high potency, even the smallest amount can lead to an overdose. Illegally made, or distributed Fentanyl is now the most common drug involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States.

Connection Between Prescription Opioids & Heroin

Prescription opioids and heroin are chemically similar and can produce similar effects. In many communities, heroin is cheaper and easier to get. Because of this, people who become addicted to prescription opioids may switch to using heroin instead.

How to Recognize an Opioid Overdose

Opioids are currently the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States. During an overdose, breathing can be dangerously slowed or stopped, causing brain damage or death. You don't have to be a medical professional to identify the signs or help, the important thing is to act quickly.

Opioid Overdose Signs Include:

  • Small constricted "pinpoint" pupils
  • Reduced level/loss of consciousness
  • Slow shallow breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Pale, blue or cold/clammy skin

Taking opioids that you buy off the street or from a friend can increase the risk of opioid overdose as there's no certainty of how strong the drug is or what might be mixed in with it!

How to Respond to an Opioid Overdose

It is at times difficult to tell whether a person is high or experiencing an overdose. If you aren't positive, it is best to treat it like an overdose.


  1. Call 9-1-1 immediately,
    all you have to say is "Someone is unresponsive and not breathing" and provide a clear address and/or description of your location

  2. Administer Naloxone,
    if available

  3. Try to keep the person awake and breathing,
    perform rescue breathing if needed

  4. Put the person on their side,
    in a recovery position

  5. Stay with them
    until the emergency workers arrive

There are also some things that you want to make sure not to do for risk of putting the individual at more harm such as:

  • Don't hit or try to forcefully wake or move the person - it will only potentially cause further harm.
  • Don't put the person in a cold bath or shower. This increases the risk of falling, drowning or going into shock.
  • Don't try to make the person vomit. This increases the risk of choking or inhaling vomit into their lungs, which can cause a fatal injury.

Naloxone Saves Lives

Available without a physician's prescription, Naloxone (brand name: Narcan) is a safe and effective medication that can quickly reverse an opioid overdose. Due to its lifesaving abilities, all family and friends that may encounter someone who uses opiates are recommended to carry it.


Learn More Here >

Good Samaritan Law

Many overdose deaths are preventable, yet people often fear arrest if they call 9-1-1 for help at the scene of a drug overdose. This law is designed to encourage people to seek medical care for the overdose victim and stay with them until help arrives by providing protections from arrest, charge, and/or prosecution for low level drug violations. Calling Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 is another option.

By recognizing the signs of overdose, knowing how to respond, and acting quickly you can save a life.

Warm, Help, & Hot Lines

The best thing you can do if you are looking for help for yourself or are concerned about someone else in your life is reach out for help.

 

If you believe an individual may have overdosed, they show changes in consciousness, are having difficulty breathing or displaying signs of a heart attack call 9-1-1 immediately.

Riverside County CARES Line

800-499-3008

If you need someone to talk to, are concerned about someone, need help finding a local resource, or assistance navigating treatment options contact the CARES Line 24/7 for free and confidential local help. Assistance available in English and Spanish.

Never Use Alone Hotline

800-484-3731

Call if you’re going to use when alone. You will be asked for your first name, EXACT location, and the number you are calling from. An operator will stay on the line during use and, if you stop responding, they will alert emergency services.

SAMHSA's National Helpline

1-800-622-HELP (4357)

Free, confidential, 24/7 365-day-a-year treatment referral and informational services (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Crisis Text Line

Crisis Text Line Text "HOME" to 741741

Connect with a crisis counselor 24/7 to receive high quality text-based mental health support and crisis intervention at your fingertips.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

800-273-8255

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 free support for individuals in distress, as well as prevention, crisis resources, and best practices for professionals.

Trans Lifeline

877-565-8860

A 24/7 lifeline run by and for trans people, providing direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis.

The Trevor Lifeline

866-488-7386

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

Additional Resources

Here are some helpful places to go for more information

Drug Overdose Deaths in Riverside County-2019

43.2% of people who died of drug overdose were 45-64 years old, 56.6% were white, and 70% were male.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

The NIDA website, drugabuse.gov, has information on a variety of drugs and related topics. NIDA's teen site, teens.drugabuse.gov, has free downloads, entertaining and informative videos and games, and a blog for teens, where you can leave us a comment or two.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

The NIAAA website, niaaa.nih.gov, contains the latest research, news, and other resources related to alcohol.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

To learn more about mental health conditions like depression or schizophrenia, visit the NIMH website, nimh.nih.gov, and read the Director's Blog on various topics, including suicide prevention, bipolar and borderline personality disorders, coping with traumatic events and more.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

You can find treatment programs through findtreatment.samhsa.gov.

Riverside County Overdose Data Dashboard

Displays data on fatal overdoses, opioid related emergency department visits and opioid related calls to poison control. Maps are based on census tracts and interactive to allow the user to view more detail when a census tract is selected. Demographic data such as gender, age and race/ethnicity (when available), are also displayed on the dashboard.

This information is brought to you by the Riverside University Health System - Public Health's Riverside Overdose Data to Action Program. For questions, comments, or more information contact Jessica Cuevas at jecuevas@ruhealth.org