Opioid Misuse

What is opioid misuse?

Opioids are substances that produce morphine-like effects. Medically they are primarily used for pain relief, including Anesthesia.1 Opioid misuse occurs when prescribed or non-prescribed opioids are used for non-medical purposes to feel good or to avoid withdrawals.

The rise of opioid misuse started in 1999. From 1999-2017, almost 400,000 people in the United States died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids. On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.2

Risks of misusing opioids include dependence and addiction. Dependence means feeling withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes a person to compulsively seek out drugs, even though they cause harm. Misuse can include taking too much medicine, taking someone else’s medicine, taking it in a different way than you are supposed to, or taking the medicine to get high. Opioid misuse may sometimes also lead to heroin use, because some people switch from prescription opioids to heroin. Opioid misuse, addiction, and overdoses are serious public health problems in the United States.

Another problem is that more women are misusing opioids during pregnancy. This can lead to babies being addicted and going through withdrawal, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).3

How can I prevent opioid misuse?

To prevent opioid misuse you should follow your doctor’s instructions when taking them. Do not share your medicines with anyone else. Contact your doctor if you have any concerns about taking the medicines.4 Another option is to request non-opioid pain medication from your healthcare provider and/or explore non-drug treatments for pain management.

How can I treat opioid misuse?

The good news is you can recover from opioid misuse or abuse. Recovery is real. Some people recover on their own, but many people need additional help through peer coaching, support groups, counseling, and/or specialized treatment. The main treatment for prescription opioid abuse is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It includes medicines, counseling, and support from family and friends. MAT can help you stop using the drug, get through withdrawal, and cope with cravings.

There is also a medicine called naloxone which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and prevent death, if it is given in time.5 Naloxone kits can be obtained through first responders and at some pharmacies. If you suspect someone is suffering from a drug overdose call 911 immediately.


What resources are available for opioid misuse prevention and treatment?

Contact us for additional information!

Jeff Smith, MPA, PMP
Special Projects Manager

620 South 400 East
St. George, UT 84770
(435) 986-2552
jsmith@swuhealth.org