New Mexico Department of Health
Our mission is to promote health and wellness, improve health outcomes, and assure safety net services for all people in New Mexico.

Prescription Opioid Safety

Drug overdose continues to be the leading cause of adult injury death in the United States. The majority of overdose deaths involve prescription opioid medications. The number of overdose deaths involving opioids have nearly quadrupled since 1999, leading public health officials to declare a nationwide opioid overdose epidemic.

What Are Opioids?

Most opioids are narcotic medications used to treat pain. Opioid medications work by binding to specific opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract. In doing so, they minimize the body’s perception of pain. Opioids can also have an effect on parts of the brain and body that regulate mood, blood pressure, and breathing.

Common Opioid Medications

Common Side Effects from Opioids

Not all opioids are prescription pain relievers. Heroin is also an opioid drug made from morphine and has the same effect on the brain and body as opioid medications used to treat pain. Heroin use is associated with many health risks, including overdose and death. It is usually inhaled or injected and rapidly enters the brain. Once in the brain, heroin is converted back into morphine.

What Is an Opioid Overdose?

Opioids, like all medications, can have adverse reactions. Opioids can cause harmful and severe reactions that slow or even stop breathing. This can happen when a person takes too much of the opioid medication or when a person mixes an opioid with another substance, like alcohol or other sedatives. Because opioids slow or even stop breathing, opioid overdoses can be fatal.

Opioid Overdose Death Is Preventable

Factors that Increase Risk for Overdose:

How to Prevent Overdose:

What is Naloxone?

Are There Any Adverse Effects From Naloxone?

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How to Administer Intranasal Naloxone

This video provides information on overdose recognition, overdose response, and naloxone administration. Watch the How to Administer Intranasal Naloxone video for more details.