Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Prevention, and Training

CSM is committed to educating students about the dangers of heroin and opioid addiction. 

Heroin and opioid-related deaths have increased drastically in recent years and is the leading cause of death in Maryland’s young adult population.

What are Opioids?

PIlls laying on a tableOpioids are drugs that are derived from the opium poppy plant or are synthetic equivalents.

Heroin is an illegal opioid, but many opioids are legal. These include a variety of pain medications routinely prescribed by doctors and include morphine, oxycodone, codeine, and fentanyl.

Because they are prescribed, users do not always need to purchase opioids at school or on the street. In fact, they can often get access to them from their own medicine cabinet or the medicine cabinets of friends. It may seem harmless — even helpful — to give a pill to someone in pain.

However, the physiological processes that allow these medications to work are very powerful. They can change the way the brain and the rest of the body react to the presence as well as the absence of the drug. The initial decision to take opioids may start off as a choice, but can develop into dependency or addiction.

Source: Operation Prevention, Discovery Education, Discovery Communications, LLC.

The Facts

Operation Prevention, an initiative by the DEA and Discovery Education, complied a list of common myths and misconceptions about opioid misuse and abuse. It’s important we separate myths from truths.

Truth: “Street drugs” and prescription opioids frequently have the exact same addictive properties and some Rx drugs can even be worse.

Truth: Genetic factors might make some people more sensitive to the effects of a drug. However, many factors determine the likelihood that someone may become addicted to a drug. This includes both inherited and environmental factors.

Truth: In most cases, when taken according to prescription instructions, pain medication is safe. It is important to discuss the prescription thoroughly with a doctor. If a patient needs long-term pain relief, it might be better to look at other options than to risk opioid addiction.

Truth: Prescription drug overdoses outnumber deaths by heroin and cocaine combined. This does not in any way lessen the danger of heroin—or other illegal drugs—but it does put into perspective the problems with prescription drug misuse.

Truth: Drugs affect people from all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic classes. Drugs do not discriminate or stereotype.

Truth: Addiction is not a hopeless problem. Help is available, and treatment can work.

About Naloxone (NARCAN®, EVZIO®)

Naloxone medicine

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone (NARCAN®, EVZIO®) is a prescription medication that safely and effectively reverses an opioid overdose.

Naloxone does NOT:

  • Cause Addictions 
  • "Enable" someone's drug use or addiction 
  • Give the user a "high" 
  • Have much potential to cause harm when administered appropriately, even if the person is not actually experiencing an opioid overdose. 

Doctors, paramedics, and other healthcare providers have used it for decades.

Since June 1, 2017, anyone can get naloxone at a Maryland pharmacy without a prescription. To learn more click here.

Doctor's office

How to Get Naloxone

Ask your doctor – Maryland law allows any healthcare provider who can prescribe drugs in Maryland (including physicians, physician assistants,advance practice nurses, dentists and others) to prescribe naloxone to their patients. Your provider can prescribe you naloxone if you are personally at risk for opioid overdose OR if you are likely to witness an overdose and be in a position to respond. State law includes legal protections for you and your provider (see below).

Maryland Overdose Response Program – The Maryland Overdose Response Program (ORP) offers in-person, hands-on training and certification in recognizing and responding to opioid overdose with naloxone. Most ORP trainings are free to attend and also provide naloxone to trainees at no charge. Visit the ORP website for more information.

Know the Signs

Although each case is different, there are common signs of potential opioid misuse and abuse.

These include:

  • Negative changes in grades
  • Skipping classes
  • Dropping longtime friends 
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Changes in appearance ... an uncharacteristic lack of concern for grooming or hygiene
  • Changes in general behavior, including sleeping and eating habits 

Source: Operation Prevention, Discovery Education, Discovery Communications, LLC.

Getting Help

Maryland’s Good Samaritan Law protects people assisting in an emergency overdose situation from arrest, as well as prosecution, for certain crimes. The purpose of the law is to encourage any person regardless of age, who experiences or observes a medical emergency caused by the ingestion or use of alcohol or other drugs, to seek medical assistance without fear of arrest or prosecution for:

  • Possessing or using a controlled dangerous substance
  • Possessing or using drug paraphernalia
  • Providing alcohol to minors

The Good Samaritan Law applies to any person who seeks, provides, or assists with the provision of medical assistance as the result of a person ingesting or using alcohol or drugs. It also applies to the victims if the victims receive assistance because someone else sought assistance for them.

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