According to the 2014 Cambridge Teen Health Survey, Cambridge high school students reported having used opioids: 3.3% have used prescription pain medication (without prescription) and 0.8% have used heroin. 

Opioids can be illegal (heroin) or by prescription (painkillers). Also known as opiates, opioids are depressants and down the central nervous system including breathing. They are usually prescribed for pain management (OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, morphine) or addiction treatment (methadone, buprenorphine), and all act similarly in the brain. When opioids enter the body, they attach to opioid receptors found in the brain, spinal cord, and gut, and prevent the body from sending pain signals to the brain.

Opioids can cause euphoria, drowsiness, addiction, constipation, widening of blood vessels, slowed breathing, and slowed heart rate. When there are so many opioids in the system, an overdose occurs; the brain shuts down breathing, preventing oxygen from getting to the brain, and after a very short time, the heart stops.

DID YOU KNOW? Two-thirds of teens who report abusing prescription medicine are getting it from friends, family, and acquaintances – usually without their knowledge.


3 Steps to Protecting Your Family (Adapted from The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids)

1. Monitor all medications. Keep track of the number of pills in your prescriptions and refills.

2. Keep all medications safe. Secure your prescriptions the same way you would other valuables in your home, like jewelry or cash. There’s no shame in helping protect those items — the same holds true for your medications.

3. Safely dispose of all expired and unused medications. Take an inventory of all of the prescription drugs in your home. Start by getting rid of expired or unused prescription drugs. It’s important to remember that some people will retrieve discarded prescription drugs from the trash. Do not flush medication down the drain or toilet.

Want to learn more about opioids and overdose? Check out the Overdose Prevention and Education Network.

Want to learn more about other drugs? Check out Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and NIDA for Teens.