Most people who use heroin started with misuse of prescription opioids, which include powerful painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin.
Opioids are a class of drug that include heroin, synthetics like fentanyl, and pain relievers that are available as a prescription. All opioids are chemically related, acting on the same part of a brain and producing similar effects. Some prescription opioids are made directly from the poppy plant, while others are created in labs.
While prescription opioids can relieve pain when used correctly, misuse can cause harmful effects including overdose and death.
Misuse of prescription painkillers include taking a medicine other than prescribed; taking someone else’s medication; taking a medication for the effects, or to get high; mixing an opioid with another drug. People can misuse a medication in pill form, while some crush pills, snorting the powder or mixing it with water and injecting it.
Opioids can cause harmful effects like drowsiness, confusion or depressed breathing. The latter can cause hypoxia, which is when too little oxygen reaches the brain. This can lead to death.
People begin using prescription opioids for various reasons, including a doctor’s orders. Doctors may prescribe opioids after a surgery, for an injury, or for certain dental procedures. Sometimes, veterinarians prescribe opioids for pets. A patient (or pet owner) can ask questions prior to filling an opioid prescription, such as exploring alternatives.
When prescribed by a doctor, these medications can help relieve pain when used properly and as instructed. But, since opioids effect parts of the brain that control pleasure, some people may misuse them. Most people, however, do not misuse these medications or develop opioid use disorder. Still, use becomes riskier when the pills are used for something else, used more frequently than prescribed, or are expired.
Misuse is attributed to a variety of reasons, but likely include ease of access. If you have prescription opioids, never share the pills with anyone. If you have leftover medications, make sure you dispose of them at a drop box like the one at the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office, which is open 24 hours.
Additionally, even using prescription medications under a doctor’s supervision can lead to a dependency, particularly for people with certain risk factors like heredity. About one in four people getting opioids in a long-term care setting develops a dependency.
Talbot Goes Purple is an educational and awareness prevention program that empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse. The purpose of the program is to promote the “new conversation” – one that includes prescription drugs, alcohol, marijuana and e-cigarettes. TGP focuses on educating students about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and works toward preventing kids from beginning to use these substances in the first place.
An initiative from the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office and Tidewater Rotary, in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools, Saints Peter & Paul School and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Talbot Goes Purple empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse.
Talbot Goes Purple is a component fund of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization – donations to which are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.