Opioid Overview

Prescription opioids can be addictive and dangerous. Keep yourself informed.

Opiates and Opioids

Both groups of drugs are "narcotics." (The word "narcotic" simply means sleep-inducing or numbness-inducing (from the Medieval Latin narcoticus, from the Greek narkoun "to be numb.")

It's most precise to refer to both groups of narcotic drugs as "opiates and opioids," the naturally-derived and the synthetic. But currently, when people wish to refer to all of these drugs, they often use the term "opioid."

Prescription Drug Misuse

Pharmaceutical opioids were involved in 75% of all pharmaceutical overdose deaths in the United States in 2010. In Colorado, pharmaceutical opioids contribute to at least 33% of all drug deaths in 2016.

Commonly Abused Drugs

Signs Someone is Misusing

General changes in mood and behavior can be an indicator of substance use. A person who is actively misusing opioids may seem drowsy and disoriented."Heroin nods" are a common side effect; when this happens, a user seems to fall asleep, while sitting or even standing, with their head hung down. Movements may be slowed and speech may be slurred.

Poisoning and Drug Overdose

What is a poison?

Any product or substance, including medications, can be harmful if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount. A poisoning can occur from a product or substance by eating it, drinking it, breathing it, injecting it, getting it on the skin, or getting it into the eyes.

A drug overdose is considered a poisoning. In this case, the drug is the product that is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount.

For more information:


Here is how to find out if your combination of medications is safe:

Use the backside of this card to list all medicines you’re taking,

  • Please list all prescription and non-prescription medications, herbals, nutritional supplements, eye drops, inhalers, etc. that you use.
  • Review this medication list once a year with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain each medicine.
  • Store prescription medicines in a drawer or cabinet that can be locked or use a lock box.
  • Monitor your medicine inventory. Know how much you’ve used, how much remains, and keep a list of all medicines in the house.
  • Make sure other family members secure their medicines before your kids visit them.
  • Find “Take-Back” locations around the state where medicines can be returned and destroyed.
  • Research the safest home disposal options.

For more information, visit:

Colorado Medication Take-Back Program - Managed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Permanent collection sites can be found at participating law enforcement agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics.

TakeMedsBack.org - Lists permanent collection locations managed by others.

Information for Professional Health Providers

The Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) is a powerful tool for prescribers and dispensers to help reduce prescription drug misuse, abuse, and diversion: helping them to make more informed decisions when considering prescribing or dispensing a controlled substance to a patient.

Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies guideline for the safe prescribing and dispensing of opioids.

The 2018 Colorado Health Symposium- David and Nic Sheff