What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal drugs like heroin, synthetic fentanyl, and prescription medications used to treat pain such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®) and hydrocodone (Vicodin®).

Opioid Overdoses

Opioid overdose is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you suspect someone is experiencing an opioid overdose.

Below are some signs that may indicate an overdose:

  • Slow breathing or no breathing
    * Less than 1 breath every 5 seconds
  • Vomiting
  • Face is pale and clammy
  • Drowsiness
  • Blue lips, fingernails or toenails
  • Slow, erratic, or no pulse
  • Limp muscles
  • Snoring or gurgling noises while asleep or nodding out
  • The person might nod off or be unresponsive to verbal requests, but may still respond to loud noises or a light shake
  • No response when you yell the person’s name

No response when you rub the middle of their chest with your knuckles

Opioid Overdoses Caused by Fentanyl

Montana has seen a rise in the number of fentanyl-related opioid overdoses reported due to an increase in the presence of counterfeit pills and other fentanyl laced drugs. Fentanyl is a synthetic and short-acting opioid that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. It was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients. When illegally manufactured, fentanyl is often mixed with heroin and/or methamphetamine. This mixing of drugs happens with or without the user’s knowledge.

The Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant from the CDC focuses on the complex opioid overdose epidemic. Surveillance activities are put in place to gather data on suspected overdoses and in return helps monitor trends and assists in creating direct prevention activities. The prevention component will strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs, improve state-local integration, establish linkages to care and improve provider and health system support.  To learn more about opioid related overdose data visit getthefacts.mt.gov

What is Naloxone?

In 2017 the Montana Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 333, the  Help Save Lives from Overdose Act, with the stated purpose of "sav[ing] the lives of persons who have experienced an opioid-related drug overdose by providing the broadest possible access to lifesaving opioid antagonist medication.”  The act directs DPHHS to increase the availability and distribution of naloxone, an opioid antagonist, through a statewide  standing order

Naloxone is a FDA approved medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Having Naloxone available to administer in the case of an opioid overdose can save a life.

Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing.

If Naloxone is given to a person who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, it is harmless. If someone is experiencing signs of an overdose but you are unsure if they are suffering from an opioid overdose, it is recommended to administer Naloxone.

Often, higher doses or multiple doses of Naloxone are needed due to reverse a fentanyl-related opioid overdose due to the high potency of fentanyl. Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl may require continuous dosing of Naloxone due to the delayed toxicity.

Emergency medical care is needed after an overdose event, even if Naloxone is given, to determine if further treatment is necessary.

What are fentanyl test strips?

Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are a low-cost method of helping prevent drug overdoses and reducing harm. FTS are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in all different kinds of drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.) and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables). FTS provide people who use drugs and communities with important information about fentanyl in the illicit drug supply so they can take steps to reduce risk of overdose. For information on how to use FTS, visit Fentanyl Test Strips: A Harm Reduction Strategy (cdc.gov)