• Opioids are chemicals that bind to a variety of receptors throughout the brain.
  • They block pain, control heart rate and breathing, and induce a calm, relaxed sensation.
  • Heroin is an illegal opioid drug.
  • Prescription opioid drugs are legal but often misused.
  • These include morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl, which can come in injectable, patch, or pill forms and may be mixed with powders or crystals such as heroin or methamphetamine.
  • Misuse of these drugs rapidly changes the brain.
  • Tolerance develops within 1-2 weeks, which means more and more of the drug is needed to achieve a “high” or elevated mood state, and eventually just to feel normal.
  • Without the drug, people rapidly become severely depressed, anxious and physically “drug sick,” making it hard to stop using.
  • The brain stores memories of how it got “high.”
  • This causes cravings for drugs for months or even years after people stop using.
  • High doses of opioids can stop breathing and lead to death.
  • Mixing opioids with alcohol or other drugs further slows breathing and increases the risk of death.
  • The United States has the highest rate of death due to drug overdose in the world.
  • More than 115 Americans die each day after overdosing on opioids, which is more than those killed by car crashes or gun violence.
  • MYTH: Prescription opioids are safer than illegal “street” drugs like heroin.
  • FACT: Prescription opioids and heroin have similar addictive risks and chemical structures.
  • Heroin is 3X stronger than oxycodone, but fentanyl is 100x stronger, and carfentanil is 10,000x stronger. This image shows the comparative size of lethal doses of each of these drugs.
  • Fentanyl and carfentanil are often mixed with heroin, greatly increasing the risk of overdose.
  • MYTH: It will be obvious if someone is misusing opioids
  • FACT: It’s not always obvious, but there are some signs you can look for.
  • Signs of opioid misuse include missing money or property, declining school performance, loss of interest in usual activities or friends, daytime drowsiness, unusual agitation or anxiety, excessive yawning or sweating, and pinpoint pupils.
  • To prevent misuse of opioids:
  • Discuss the risks of prescription drugs and other substances regularly with your children.
  • If a doctor suggests prescribing an opioid medication, ask about non-opioid pain relief alternatives, or request a partial prescription fill.
  • Always oversee medications for your children and store them locked away.
  • Always use medications according to the doctor’s instructions and never share medications.
  • Dispose of any unused medications by finding a local drug take-back location, which can include a pharmacy or a drop box. Other options can be found on this website: https://goo.gl/QuYQWd
  • Your connection and communication with your teen can be highly effective in preventing misuse of opioids and other drugs.
  • Parent Toolkits:





    Disposal of Unused Medications: