Addressing the Opioid Overdose Crisis and Other Drug Use in Your Community
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine and many others. Prescription pain relievers have been used for years to treat chronic pain, cough and diarrhea. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but can be dangerous when misused. Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence, addiction or even overdose.
The rising number of opioid overdose deaths is a serious public health crisis that affects individuals, families and communities. Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, and American Indians and Alaska Natives have been disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis. For example, American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest drug overdose death rates in 2015 and the largest percentage change increase in the number of deaths from 1995 to 2015 relative to other racial/ethnic groups.
This issue highlights resources on opioid addiction and general information about drug misuse from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other federal agencies. NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the largest supporter of the world’s research on drug use and addiction.
Featured Health Information
Opioid Addiction: A Chronic Disease [PDF – 1.3 MB] is a brochure developed for American Indian/Alaska Native communities that provides basic information about opioid addiction, including its health effects, treatment options and resources.
Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that can be treated. For opioid addiction, treatment that includes medication, along with counseling and support—which can include traditional healing and spiritual approaches—is often the best choice. When medications are used to treat opioid addiction, they are not replacing one drug for another. To learn more about effective treatments for opioid addiction, see this fact sheet.
NIDA’s Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What To Ask publication offers guidance in seeking substance use disorder treatment, and lists five questions to ask when searching for a treatment program.
Recognizing that you need help for substance use dependence or addiction is a big step, and knowing where to turn next can be difficult. Explore these Step-by-Step Guides to find simple, concrete steps you can take to find support for yourself or someone you love.
The fact sheet Treating Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy provides evidence-based solutions for treating opioid misuse in pregnant women to lessen the effects of use on their newborn infants. If a woman uses opioids while pregnant, there is a risk that her child could be born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition where the child is born dependent on opioids and experiences withdrawal symptoms.
Naloxone for Opioid Overdose: Life-Saving Science is a brief fact sheet that provides information about the life-saving drug naloxone (also known as Narcan®), how it works and where to get it. When a person is overdosing on opioids, administering naloxone can save their life. Naloxone can be used by health care professionals, or—in some states—family and friends, to quickly help the person overdosing begin to breathe again.
This downloadable poster [PDF – 141 KB] provides resources for pregnant women to find treatment and services in their communities.
The booklet Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse highlights parenting skills that are important in preventing the initiation and progression of drug use among youth.
The Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood guide, intended for parents, practitioners and policymakers, begins with a list of seven principles addressing the specific ways in which early interventions can have positive effects on development. These principles reflect findings on the influence of intervening early with vulnerable populations, on the course of child development and on common elements of early childhood programs.
NIDA’s Easy-to-Read Drug Facts website provides simple, plain language summaries about a variety of drugs, including opioids, resources about drug addiction and information on treatment and recovery options.
Drug use often starts in the teenage years. The NIDA for Teens website provides teens, parents and teachers with vital information about the effects of drugs and answers real teens’ questions about drug use.
NIDAMED is a website that disseminates science-based resources to health professionals on the causes and consequences of drug use. It provides resources for providers on various drugs, including safe opioid prescribing practices and how to treat opioid use disorder.
The Drugs and the Brain Wallet Card is designed to help people leaving criminal justice and structured treatment facilities to return to their home environment. It includes information about resources and helplines, and is discreet enough to be kept in a wallet, pocket, purse or cell phone case for easy access. You can order cards to distribute to your patients or community members.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit offers strategies to health care providers, communities and local governments for developing practices and policies to help prevent opioid-related overdoses and deaths.
SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator helps patients find treatment facilities in the United States or U.S. territories for substance misuse/addiction and/or mental health problems.
News & Events
Prescription drugs should be used and stored as explained by the pharmacist or health care provider. Not following the directions may result in their misuse, not just by yourself, but also by family members and friends.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day will take place April 28, 2018. This annual event aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposing prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. Opioid addiction affects Native American communities just as it does all parts of American society. Learn what you can do to help educate your community.
National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week® (NDAFW) links students with scientists and other experts to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, social media, TV, movies, music or friends. Locally planned and hosted by school and community organizations, events focus on providing teens the scientific facts about drugs and alcohol. The next NDAFW will take place January 22–27, 2019. To sign up, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
In response to the opioid overdose crisis, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is focusing its efforts on five major priorities. HHS opioid crisis priorities and related materials can be found on the HHS website.
The NIH, a component of the HHS, is the nation's leading medical research agency helping solve the opioid crisis by discovering new and better ways to prevent opioid misuse, treat opioid use disorders and manage pain. To accelerate progress, the NIH is exploring formal partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and academic research centers. Information about the NIH’s public-private partnership can be found on the NIH website.