Opioid Misuse

What are opioids?

Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain and include any natural or synthetic substances that are made from or related to the opium poppy. Opiates are a type of opioid that are naturally derived from the opium poppy plant and are not synthetic.

Commonly used opioids include fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, buprenorphine, methadone, and tramadol. Heroinis the common name for diecetylemorphine or diamorphine. Opioid-based medications are commonly prescribed by doctors and can easily cause dependence if misused or mis-prescribed.

What are the risks of opioid misuse?

Opioids can make the user feel relaxed, drowsy, clumsy, confused, and can slur speech, slow breathing, and even stop the heart.

Prescription opioid misuse can lead to a substance use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases, even when used as prescribed by a doctor. You can reduce your risk of dangerous side effects by following your doctor's instructions carefully and taking your medication exactly as prescribed.

How can I get help if I or someone I know have a problem misusing opioids?

  • Contact 211 Maine – Call, text, or visit 211 online. 211 is a free, confidential services that connects people of all ages across Maine to local services. 211 Maine is staffed by trained specialists and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The DHHS Office of Behavioral Health provides information about accessing substance use treatment and recovery resources

Preventing Opioid Misuse

The Maine CDC Tobacco and Substance Use Prevention Program works to reduce the use of opioid misuse by:

  • Increasing public education about the risks and effects of opioid use supported by community coalitions, statewide outreach efforts, and ongoing prevention campaigns.
  • Reducing youth and young adult access to opioids through the promotion of safe prescription storage.
  • Collaborating with Maine’s Prescription Monitoring Program to educate healthcare providers about safe prescribing practices.
  • Providing trainings and toolkits for employers to promote dialogue about the influence workplace culture can have on substance use for adults and minors alike, using tools like the Healthy US Scorecard and SAMHSA’s Drug-Free Workplace Toolkit.
  • Offering stigma-free education and support services for pregnant persons and families about opioid use and its effects on infants and the home environment. Programs like Prime for Life can help individuals make low-risk choices about health by assessing their current values and lifestyle.
  • Supporting healthy school policies through:

Resources and Outreach Materials

Outreach materials:

  • Maine Prevention Store – Free print materials and digital downloads designed to improve health and help prevent tobacco use, substance use, and suicide in Maine.

Current Campaigns:

  • Eyes Open for Maine – This campaign has information for patients, prescribers, and their friends and family around opioid use. Includes how to know the signs if someone you know is struggling with opioid use disorder, how to connect yourself or a loved one with help, how to store and dispose of prescriptions safely.
  • Substance Exposed Infants – Educates Mainers on the risk of alcohol and other substance use during pregnancy and infant care.
  • Talk, They Hear You – Focuses on strategies for having difficult conversations about substance use with children and adolescents.
  • Times Have Changed – Describes how substance use has evolved over time for the purpose of keeping parents and caregivers informed of current use trends.
  • Know Your Options – OPTIONS (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety) is an effort to improve the health of Mainers using substances through improving access to harm reduction strategies, linking individuals to treatment resources, and reducing the number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses.
  • MaineMOM – MaineMOM improves care for pregnant and postpartum Mainers with opioid use disorder and aims to protect infants by integrating maternal and substance use treatment services.
  • Get Maine Naloxone – Educates Mainers on how to access and administer Naloxone.

Information about Opioid Misuse in Maine

  • Maine Drug Data Hub – The Maine Drug Data Hub is a collaboration between state departments, the Governor’s Office, and the University of Maine to provide resources, data, and visuals to inform Mainers about overdoses and harm reduction strategies.
  • Maine Opioid Response Strategic Action Plan – Comprised of five focus areas with ten priorities and 33 strategies, the Opioid Strategic Action Plan focuses on reducing negative health and economic impacts of substance use disorders in Maine.
  • Maine SEOW Dashboard – The State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (SEOW) dashboard outlines current substance use data and trends in Maine.
  • Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS) – The Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey is a biennial survey conducted by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education. The survey monitors health behaviors and attitudes about tobacco, alcohol, substance use, mental health, nutrition, physical activity, adverse childhood experiences, and protective factors.

About the Maine CDC Tobacco and Substance Use Prevention and Control Program

Program contact:

  • Tobacco and Substance Use Prevention and Control Program
  • Phone: (207) 287-4627
  • E-mail:  tsup.dhhs@maine.gov
  • TTY: Maine relay 711

Prevention partners:

  • AdCare Educational Institute of Maine – AdCare provides continuing education credits to preventionists on an array of public health topics, from substance misuse, gambling, suicide prevention, and evidence-based prevention strategies for communities.
  • New England Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) – PTTC provides education for the New England prevention workforce about multiple topics related to substance misuse.
  • The Opioid Council – The Maine Opioid council is partnered with The Prevention and Recovery Cabinet to made respond to Maine’s opioid crisis using evidence-based strategies, interventions, & outreach efforts.
  • Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America – CADCA offers support for substance use coalitions, provides training resources, evidence-based prevention strategies, and community-level success stories.
  • Substance Exposed Infants Taskforce – SEIT incorporates perspectives from the birthing and substance use disorder fields, as well as those who aid individuals facing homelessness and domestic violence. Together, the taskforce creates recommendations and practical resources for community providers.