Get Healthy Carson City

Celeste Pierini, Carson City Health and Human Services

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Tuesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

National Opioid Awareness Day August 31, 2017

What does Opioid Awareness mean to you? Perhaps it means being aware of the amount of medications you have in your medicine cabinet. Or maybe it means understanding the risk for harm or addiction to opioid-based pain medications if taken when not prescribed or required.

Every day, 91 people in the United States, including at least one person in Nevada die from an opioid drug overdose (CDC, 2015). It is important to understand the reasons behind these overdoses and how to prevent more from occurring.

Opioids, such as heroin and opioid-based pain medications such as Oxycodone (Percocet), Hydrocodone (Vicodin), and Fentanyl are dangerous substances when used illicitly and/or without a valid reason and prescription. When consumed, opioids attach themselves to our brain’s receptors (or signal center) and interfere with normal bodily functions. An important function that opioids affect is the breathing center in the brain’s nervous system. If too many opioids are ingested or taken in, then a person will stop breathing and may die. This is what’s known as an overdose. This process is quickened when a person has taken other medications such as anti-anxiety medications, other narcotic pain medications, recreational or illicit drugs, or sleep aids as these medications also affect breathing patterns and awareness.

Opioid abuse is a serious problem. Many report that their addiction began after using opioid-based pain medications that were either given to them from a friend or family member. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), 20% of all opioid drug abusers are under the age of 30. Each day, 500 of these people become new heroin users. In fact, nearly 1/2 of young people surveyed who injects Heroin state they abused opioids BEFORE starting Heroin.

How can you be Opioid Aware? We here at Carson City Health & Human Services have put together some tips:

  • Do not share your opioid-based pain medications with anyone, regardless of the situation.
  • Keep you opioid-based pain medications in a secure and private location. If you wish to discard your medication, you may dispose of them at the Carson City Sheriff’s office (or Douglas County Sheriff’s office) in their special medication drop-off box or you can contact our Department and we will direct you to the nearest drop-off location.
  • Do not take prescribed medications with other medicines or Over-The-Counter medicines without first talking with your healthcare provider. Dangerous interactions can be avoided this way.

Carson City Health and Human Services (CCHHS) wants you to be opioid aware. For more information about CCHHS services, check out our website at or visit us at


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