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Opioids: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the opioid problem?

About 115 Americans die each day from overdosing on drugs called opioids. Johns Hopkins Medicine is tackling this issue head-on. This guide offers information about opioids, addiction (what medical professionals call “opioid use disorder”), prevention and treatment.

What is an opioid?

An opioid is a type of drug found in prescription pain medicine. It is also found in “street drugs” such as heroin. Prescription opioids can help with pain when used under a doctor’s order. They may be addictive and cause side effects and even death when used incorrectly.

How do I get help for myself or a loved one?

Treatment is typically provided on an outpatient basis. In some cases it is also provided at a residential program. Both programs often use medications to help get patients off opioids.

Talk with your doctor or other health care professional about the options. Check with your insurance provider for what they cover, as costs can vary.

How can I get someone to seek help?

When a person with an opioid use disorder is ready to get help, they need help right away. But they also need to want to participate. This can be hard for friends and family members if the person does not want help. If you have questions, you should talk with your doctor or health care provider. What you tell your doctor is private and should not be shared without your permission.

Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore offer opioid abuse treatment services, including methadone clinics and buprenorphine providers.

How successful is treatment?

Some patients will need to repeat treatment before beating addiction. Their surroundings, including family or friends, can play an important role.

Research has also shown that patients with depression and those who use other substances such as alcohol are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders. Treatment for both mental health and substance use disorders should be completed together for treatment to work.

What are we doing?

Our efforts include clinical care, medical education and research in keeping with the mission of Johns Hopkins Medicine. The work we are doing is just one piece of a bigger puzzle.

Can prescribed medicine lead to opioid addiction?

People often get prescription opioids by taking them out of other people’s medicine cabinets. It’s important to get rid of unused medicine to stop it from getting into the wrong hands.

Unused or expired medicine can be taken to drug take-back and drop-off locations. This includes disposal sites at outpatient pharmacies at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.

What are the warning signs of opioid abuse?

Someone struggling with an opioid use disorder may not show signs right away. Over time, there may be some signs they need help.

Changes in sleep habits, weight loss, flu-like symptoms and decreased libido may be physical signs they are struggling. Changes in the way they act — such as cutting off relationships with family or friends, spending too much money, stealing, changes in exercise habits or not bathing — may also be signs.