Frequently Asked Questions
What are opioids?
Opioids are a class of substances that include both illicit drugs such as heroin, derived from the poppy plant, as well as synthetic opioids such as morphine, oxycodone, and codeine.
Are opioids safe?
While opioid medications are frequently prescribed for legitimate medical purposes, people may build up a tolerance to opioids and therefore require stronger doses for the same effect. Opioids are safest when taken exactly as directed by a medical professional. Misuse of prescription opioids can increase risk for an overdose. If you or someone you know are misusing opioids, please refer to our community resources page to find support.
Who is at risk for an opioid overdose?
Opioid overdose is more common for:
People who use opioids in higher doses
People who use opioids in combination with other substances that cause slowed breathing or respiratory depression (alcohol, benzodiazepines, etc)
People who use opioids and have medical conditions such as HIV or liver or lung disease, or who suffer from depression
People who inject opioids
People with opioid dependence after a period of non-use (such as following detoxification, release from incarceration, or cessation of treatment)
What should I do if I encounter someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose?
Call 9-1-1 right away. Assess the person for signs of breathing. If breathing is infrequent , shallow, or you can't detect any breathing - start CPR right away and don't stop chest compressions until EMS arrives. Administer Narcan/naloxone if available.
Is it ok to help someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose?
IYes, it is ok to help. In Michigan, good samaritans who intervene to provide aid during an emergency are legally protected.
You are protected from prosecution related to personal drug possession if you seek medical attention for yourself or another person. This can include reporting a drug overdose to law enforcement, calling 9-1-1, a poison control center, or a medical provider, or assisting someone in reporting a drug overdose or other overdose emergency. The amount of a drug that is considered “personal use” varies depending on the substance.
Any individual that performs CPR on another individual is not liable for any resulting injuries, as long as that individual acts in good faith. This law also covers injuries related to using an AED or administering naloxone.
The ACT program aims to reduce harms caused by opioids. Harm Reduction is both a perspective and a series of practical interventions that works to minimize the negative consequences of licit and illicit substance use. Harm reduction services neither condone nor condemn substance use, but understand that it is a part of our world and work to reduce the negative consequences of substance use. We recognize each individual’s ability to make decisions for themselves, and we support all pathways of recovery.
At ACT, we apply harm reduction in our work by educating community members on the risks of opioid overdose and by teaching life-saving skills, such as hands-only CPR and how to use Narcan, a medicine that can reverse opioid overdose symptoms. We distribute free Narcan to participants of our training sessions and offer additional doses to previous participants in the event that they use their Narcan. Additionally, we provide information about local support and resources and are engaged with other harm reduction organizations in the Detroit area.
Understanding and Reducing Stigma
Stigma around substance use can discourage individuals from seeking treatment. Stigmatizing language can make people who use substances feel guilty or ashamed, and they may hesitate to ask for help. While conversations around mental health and substance use have become less taboo in the United States, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Person first language
Person first language is exactly what it sounds like - making language choices that refer to the person first, and not their condition or disability. Substance use is a sensitive topic for many and it’s important to approach the discussion with empathy and respect.