Opioids/Substance Use

What are opioids?

Percocet. Vicodin. Morphine. Oxycodone. These are just a few of the opioid medicines you may have been given after having a tooth pulled, spraining your ankle or having minor surgery. Prescription pain relievers are cousins of heroin. In fact, 80% of people who use heroin started with prescription pills. New information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us it only takes four to five days to become hooked on pain medicine. The risk goes up every day after that.

Two people die in the U.S. by accident every hour from prescription opioids (narcotic pain medicines). Most of these are people taking other people’s medicine. Besides the risk of addiction from these drugs, if you take too much, you could stop breathing and die. The highest risk of overdose is in the first 24 to 48 hours. Taking them with alcohol or medicines for anxiety (like Valium, Ativan or Xanax) can increase the risk of death.

A mixture of Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) has actually been proven to work much better for a new pain. These over-the-counter pain relievers also work better than narcotic pain medicine for pain after minor surgery and kidney stones. If pain has been going on a long time (chronic), talk to your doctor. They can prescribe other medicines or treatments that work much better than opioids and will not cause addiction.

Naloxone can save lives

Naloxone, or Narcan, is a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose for a short time until the person can be treated. If you or a friend or family member is using these medications, it is recommended that you have naloxone on-hand. As of June 9, 2017, anyone in Arizona can pick up naloxone from a pharmacy without a prescription. Your doctor or pharmacist can explain when and how to use it. You could save a life!

For more information about the opioid epidemic in Arizona, visit the Arizona Department of Health Services’ opioid site.