What are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that work in the brain to produced a variety of effects, including pain relief. They include opioid analgesics (prescription painkillers), heroin, and fentanyl. Examples include: methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and morphine.
Opioids work by binding with opioid receptors in the brain to:
- Relieve pain
- Relieve withdrawal
- Produce feelings of mental and/or physical comfort
- Cause side effects such as constipation, drowsiness, and respiratory depression, which can cause the heart to stop
Fentanyl is a highly potent, fast-acting synthetic opioid. Fentanyl can be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Both are considered synthetic opioids. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced-stage cancer.
However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is distributed through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, which makes drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous.
What is Harm Reduction?
- Harm reduction is a proactive and evidence-based approach to reduce the negative personal and public health impacts of behavior associated with alcohol and other substance use at both the individual and community levels. Harm reduction calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs, and the communities in which they live, in order to assist them in reducing harm and have proven to prevent death, overdose, injury, and prevent substance misuse or disorder.
- Harm Reduction services include: health education programs, access to sterile syringes, disposal of contaminated medical products, naloxone access, and ways to identify tampered illicit drugs, such as fentanyl-test strips.
If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about harm reduction, or could benefit from the services they offer, check out The Works Program with locations in Lafayette, Longmont, and Boulder, the Harm Reduction Action Center in Denver, and Natural Highs in Boulder which is youth focused.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is a medication that reverses opioid overdoses by blocking opioid receptors, which prevents opioids from binding to them. It will have no impact if an overdose is not opioid related, and is not harmful to anyone who receives it that is not experiencing an opioid overdose.
Naloxone is available in the form of a nasal spray, as well as an intramuscular injectable form.
Negative side effects of using Naloxone are minimal (i.e. vomiting) and no potential for misuse or dependence. However, naloxone may put a person dependent on opioids into withdrawal, which can be a very painful and uncomfortable experience. You should always follow up with emergency care after using naloxone, since its effects are only temporary.
Naloxone can be found at local pharmacies - use this map to find a location in Broomfield.
According to the Colorado Drug Overdose Dashboard, Broomfield has lost almost 100 residents to overdosefrom 2010-2022 - 54 of these deaths were due to an opioid overdose. The majority of these deaths were among individuals under the age of 55. Emergency department visits involving opioid overdose have been increasing in recent years. From 2016-2020, there were 725 emergency department visits and hospital admissions for drug overdoses - 128 of these were for an overdose involving opioids. The number of emergency department visits for an overdose involving opioids rose steeping from 17 in 2019 to 28 in 2020. Learn more about recent trends in overdose deaths across the state from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
To find out more about what Broomfield is doing to address behavioral health - including prevention of overdose, read about the Behavioral Health Improvement Plan.
- Local treatment options for mental health and substance use
- CDC Preventing Overdose - strategies for preventing opioid overdose
- CDPHE - state level efforts to prevent overdose
- Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention - resources for local partners across the state
- Harm Reduction Action Center - The Harm Reduction Action Center is Colorado’s largest public health agency that works specifically with people who inject drugs. HRAC serves a population that has long been stigmatized and underserved.
- Stop Overdose - CDC website with facts on fentanyl, using naloxone and finding ways to recovery