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Opioids and Overdoses

Drug Information

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. These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths. An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone when given right away.Visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse for more information regarding Opioids.

Signs and Symptoms

Physical Signs

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Dry-mouth
  • Noticeable elation/euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Constricted Pupils
  • Needle marks and bruising on an injection site

Other Signs

  • Doctor shopping
  • Shifting or dramatically changing moods
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Other financial problems

Health Consequences



  • Naloxone temporarily reverses an opioid overdose by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors, allowing breathing to be restored.
  • The duration of the effect varies, but typically lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. After the opioid receptors are no longer blocked by Naloxone, the individual may resume overdosing. It is important to call 911, even if it appears that the individual is no longer overdosing.
  • Naloxone only temporarily reverses overdoses due to opioid prescription pain relievers (such as Oxycontin and hydrocodone) and heroin. Administering Naloxone to someone overdosing on other drugs will not have an effect.

   Naloxone Videos


Non-prescription opioids, such as heroin, are Schedule I drugs meaning they have high potential for abuse and are not approved for medical use. Prescription opioids, including codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone, are Schedule II and still have a high potential for abuse but are approved for medical use with a prescription and further limitations.

Recent Idaho Legislation

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

2015: House Bill No. 4

Requires prescribers to register with the state prescription drug monitoring program. Enacted March 5, 2015.

2017: House Bill No. 5

Requires pharmacists to register with the state prescription drug monitoring program. Enacted February 16, 2017.

Naloxone Access

2015: House Bill No. 108

Allows prescribers and pharmacists to prescribe opioid antagonists to a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose; a person in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose; a person who, in the course of his official duties or business, may encounter a person experiencing an opioid-related overdose; or a person who in the opinion of the prescriber or pharmacist has valid reason to be in the possession of an opioid antagonist. Allows these persons, when acting in good faith and exercising reasonable care, to administer an opioid antagonist to another person who appears to be experiencing an opioid-related overdose. Requires the administering person to contact emergency medical services as soon as possible. Ensures said persons will not be held civilly or criminally liable. Enacted March 23, 2015.

Good Samaritan Law

2018: House Bill No. 649

Adds a new Idaho Code Section 37-2739c to provide that certain persons acting in good faith seeking or needing medical assistance for drug related overdose shall not be charged or prosecuted for possession of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia. This Good Samaritan legislation shall not be grounds for suppression of evidence in other criminal charges. Enacted March 26, 2018.

Position Statements

Medical Organizations


Talk to your Physician

Before you take an opioid, take a moment to ask your doctor or dentist these five questions:
  1. Am I at risk for addiction?
  2. Will something else work?
  3. How long will I be taking them?
  4. Are you prescribing the lowest possible dose?
  5. What’s the plan to taper me off?

Properly Dispose of medication

Proper disposal of opioid medications is important in curtailing the abuse of prescription drugs by reducing access to unused, unwanted or expired medications. It also reduces the negative impact on the environment. Safely dispose of your leftover or expired opioids by using a prescription drug drop box. Find a take-back location near you by using our search tool.

Talk to Youth about Opioid Abuse

Children who learn about the risk of drugs at home are less likely to use drugs than those who do not get that critical message from their parents.  Here are a few resources for getting the conversation started:

The Idaho Office of Drug Policy leads Idaho’s substance abuse policy and prevention efforts by developing and implementing strategic action plans and collaborative partnerships to reduce drug use and related crime,
thereby improving the health and safety of all Idahoans.

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