Navigating Life & COVID-19  

Opioids are a type of drug that can help block pain. For example, your doctor may prescribe an opioid to help manage low back pain or arthritis, or when you break a bone or have surgery. Opioids can be helpful medicine. They also can be dangerous. It’s important to know the facts and the risks.

Some of the most common opioids and their brand names include:

  • Codeine (Tylenol #3 or #4)

  • Fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq)

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco, Lortab, Lorcet)

  • Meperidine (Demerol)

  • Methadone

  • Morphine (MS Contin, Kadian)

  • Oxycodone (Percocet, Oxycontin)

  • Oxymorphone (Opana)

  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)

  • Tapentadol (Nucynta)

common opioids include

Signs of Opioid Misuse and Addiction

The signs can be easy to miss at first. Here’s what to watch for over time:
  • Noticeable elation/euphoria
  • Marked sedation/drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slowed breathing
  • Intermittent nodding off, or loss of consciousness
  • Constipation

Note: These signs don’t necessarily mean someone is misusing opioids or addicted. But they are signals that may indicate a problem.

Signs of an overdose

Spotting an opioid overdose can help save a life. Look for a combination of these signs:
  • Very small, pinpoint pupils
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
  • Limp, unresponsive body
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Pale or cold skin

What to do if you see these signs in someone you know

  1. Talk to the friend or family member you suspect is struggling with opioids. You can start the conversation by sharing the information in this brochure. You can download and print it.
  2. Encourage the person to talk with a doctor or call a helpline.
  3. Let them know you’re there for them.

Care resources

  • Available for everyone: the national treatment finder at
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona members:
    • Online doctor search
    • BlueCare Anywhere: a telehealth service available to most members. You can talk to a counselor or doctor by phone, computer, or tablet. Start here.

If someone has overdosed, take action!

  • Call 911 immediately — a fatal overdose can happen in minutes
  • Try to keep the person alert.
  • Lay the person on his or her left side to prevent choking.
  • Administer a dose of the rescue medicine Naloxone, per package instructions (if you have it).

Download our flyer on how to recognize and reverse an opioid overdose.

Good to know: Arizona is a Good Samaritan state. That means you won’t be prosecuted for a drug crime for helping someone, even if there are illegal drugs where you are.

Potential Dangers Of Opioids

Potential dangers of opioids

Opioids help people manage pain and recovery when taken in the right amount for a short time. But they do have risks. Here are four of the biggest dangers:

  1. Taking them too long. Opioids can become addictive within just five days. Once you’re addicted, your body needs more of the drug to get the same effect as when you were taking less. This leads many people to take the drug too often or take more than they should.

  2. Combining drugs. If someone is addicted and can’t get more of the same prescription drug, they might combine drugs or use drugs shared by a friend. Some drugs can cause dangerous interactions when mixed together. These interactions can be deadly.

  3. Taking opioids with alcohol. Opioids should never be combined with alcohol. It’s extremely dangerous and increases the risk of death.

  4. Moving to a more dangerous drug. Over time, opioid addiction can lead to trying a stronger drug, like heroin. Heroin is an illegal drug made from morphine. It has an effect similar to prescription opioids and can be deadly if overused.

For the first time, statewide opioid data is available in real time, collected by the Arizona Department of Health Services:

Data range: June 15, 2017April 9, 2021

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

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