Opioid Overdose and Poisoning

Opioids are drugs that relieve pain and slow the body down. They may be prescribed or used illegally to reduce pain, manage opioid dependence or produce a state of euphoria/relaxation. Common opioids include heroin, fentanyl, morphine, methadone, codeine and oxycodone. Opioid drugs can also be very addictive. When a person is addicted to an opioid, they can feel very sick without the drug in their body. This is often referred to as withdrawal.

Opioid drugs affect the part of your brain that controls your breathing. When you take more opioids than your body can handle (overdose), your breathing slows. This can lead to unconsciousness and even death.

Some people knowingly take opioid drugs, including prescription and illegal opioids, and may overdose. Other people may take drugs such as cocaine, fake (counterfeit) pills, crystal methamphetamine, ketamine, ecstasy, MDMA, or LSD, that have been poisoned with strong opioid drugs.

Very strong drugs like carfentanil make opioid overdose and poisoning more likely because a very small amount (less than a grain of sand) can be a lethal dose.

Opioid overdose and poisoning are occurring among people who take drugs. People who do not take drugs are at extremely low risk for overdose or poisoning.

Take home naloxone kits are available for distribution to members of the public who are at risk of opioid overdose, and family or friends who may witness opioid toxicity. For more information please see the Take Home Naloxone Program website.