Treating Heroin and Opioid Use Disorder
Treating Heroin and Opioid Use Disorder
Every day, we lose 10 Pennsylvanians to substance use disorder. This disease affects each and every Pennsylvanian and threatens entire communities in our commonwealth.
Help is available for Pennsylvanians battling substance use disorder and their loved ones. This guide will connect you to the resources you need to live a long and productive life.
Need treatment? Call the Get Help Now Hotline at 1-800-662-4357 to speak with a professional.
If somebody has taken drugs and becomes unresponsive, call 911 immediately. These resources are intended for preventive measures only.
Help During COVID-19
COVID-19 has introduced unique challenges and hardships to all of our lives. As a result, you or your loved ones could be experiencing increased feelings of anxiety, boredom, and loneliness. Usual activities and supports could be restricted, unavailable, or just not the same.
In these situations, it is normal to look for some relief or an escape. But misusing any substance — such as opioids, alcohol, or other medication — even if they were prescribed by a doctor, is not the solution.
This pandemic is temporary. Substance use disorder can last a lifetime.
You are not alone – we have resources to help you during this difficult time.
- Pennsylvania’s Get Help Now Hotline: Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or chat online.
- Drug and Alcohol Resources: Online recovery meetings, podcasts, mobile apps for recovery, and other online resources.
- Mental Health and Emotional Support: Toll-free support and referral helpline, as well as information on emergency assistance, benefits and resources for families, and resources related to long-term living, employment, and home heating. Call 1-855-284-2494 (TTY: 724-631-5600).
Need more information on COVID-19? Visit our COVID resources guide.
Risks of Prescription Opioids
Prescription opioids can be an important part of treatment for pain, but they also come with serious side effects and risks. It is important to consider the risks and talk to your health care provider about your options.
Prescription opioids are dangerous and should be treated with extra caution. Physical tolerance and dependence, addiction, and death from overdose are some of the serious risks associated with opioids. These risks are especially associated with long-term use but can happen anytime. In fact, long-term dependence becomes much more likely after just five days.
To minimize the risks of prescription opioids and effectively manage your pain:
Call the Hotline
Are you or is someone you know suffering from substance use disorder? We can help. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for information about treatment resources. Your call is confidential. The hotline is staffed by trained professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is available in both English and Spanish.
Find a Single County Authority
Local treatment programs are administered through county drug and alcohol offices called Single County Authorities. These programs can help with treatment funding, assess the need for treatment or other services, and make referrals to match treatment and/or service needs.
Find a Center of Excellence
Centers of Excellence, created by the Wolf Administration in 2016, are designed to get more people into treatment and keep them engaged in their care. The centers coordinate care for people with Medicaid. Treatment is team-based and “whole person” focused, with the explicit goal of integrating behavioral health and primary care. More information about Centers of Excellence.
To find a Center of Excellence near you, view the map below:
Find a Treatment Provider
You also can reach out directly to treatment providers near you. A treatment provider or facility provides treatment options for those suffering from substance use disorder.
The Magnitude of the Epidemic
The opioid epidemic affects every walk of life. Rich, poor, black, white, young, or old — the opioid crisis is unprejudiced in its reach and devastation. At least 10 Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose.
Naloxone is a safe, easy-to-use, live-saving medication that has one job: Reverse an opioid overdose by blocking the effects of opioids.
An opioid overdose happens when the body cannot handle the amount of opioids that a person takes or if they take a dangerous combination of opioids and other substances like alcohol, other medications, or drugs.
Opioids can slow down a person’s breathing, or even completely stop their breathing.
Additional signs of an overdose include:
- Small, pinpoint pupils
- Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Limp body
- Pale, blue, or cold skin
You can save a life by giving naloxone to a person experiencing opioid overdose.
At the Pharmacy
The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Physician General signed a standing order prescription for naloxone.
This means you do not need to get a prescription for naloxone from your healthcare provider.
Show the standing order document to your pharmacist on a cellphone or tablet, or print the document and show it to your pharmacist.
The cost of naloxone from a pharmacy can vary. Before going to the pharmacy, you might want to call your health insurance carrier to find out if naloxone is a covered benefit under your policy and/or if you may have an out-of-pocket cost.
You also can call your pharmacy of choice, provide your health insurance information, and confirm your out-of-pocket cost of naloxone.
Copay Assistance for Naloxone
If you do not have health insurance or if cost is a barrier, you might want to get free naloxone by mail.
Through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and NEXT Distro, anyone can get naloxone mailed to their home for free.
How To Use Naloxone
Anyone can learn how to safely give naloxone to someone experiencing an overdose.
Training is available at:
You also can reach out to your health care provider or pharmacist with questions about administering naloxone.
Here’s how to give someone naloxone nasal spray:
STEP 1: Peel back the package to remove the device.
STEP 2: Hold the device with your thumb on the bottom of the plunger and two fingers on the nozzle.
STEP 3: Place and hold the tip of the nozzle in either nostril, until your fingers touch the bottom of the patient’s nose.
STEP 4: Lastly, press the plunger firmly to release the dose into the patient’s nose.
Naloxone for First Responders Program (NFPR)
NFRP provides intranasal naloxone to priority first responder groups across Pennsylvania utilizing designated points of contact known as Centralized Coordinating Entities (CCEs). Learn more about the NFR program and eligibility.
Responding To An Overdose
- Try to wake the person up by calling their name or rubbing the middle of their chest with your knuckles.
- Call 911 for help.
- Use naloxone if you have it – if the person overdosing does not respond within 2 to 3 minutes after administering the first dose of naloxone, administer a second dose.
- Support the person’s breathing by ensuring their airway is clear or begin rescue breathing. Position the person on their side if they are breathing on their own.
- Slap or try to forcefully stimulate the person.
- Put the person into a cold bath or shower. This increases the risk of falling, drowning, or going into shock.
- Inject the person with any substance (salt water, milk, “speed,” heroin, etc.). The only safe and appropriate treatment is naloxone.
- Try to make the person vomit the drugs they may have swallowed. Choking or inhaling vomit into the lungs can cause a fatal injury.
Good Samaritan Law
Through the Good Samaritan provision of Act 139, members of the community, family members, friends, and bystanders can lawfully administer naloxone to someone who is experiencing an overdose.
This provision provides immunity from prosecution for those who respond to an overdose by administering naloxone and/or call 911.
Drug Take-Back Boxes
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Office of the Attorney General, the National Guard, and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, spearheaded an expanded prescription drug take-back box program to reduce the amount of prescription drugs available for potential misuse and abuse.
Through grants, this program has placed hundreds of take-back boxes across all 67 counties. Since its start in January 2014, hundreds of tons of prescription drugs have been collected and safely discarded.
Find a drug take-back location near you.
Resources for Families
It’s not easy supporting a loved one with substance use disorder or dealing with the many challenges that come along with it. You are not alone. Resources are here to help you.
- Online chat: Chat online with an expert (you can stay anonymous if you wish).
- Get Help Now: Call the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs’ Get Help Now hotline at 1-800-662-4357 and get connected to supports.
- Grief support: Coping with the loss of a loved one due to a drug or alcohol overdose? Find a grief support group in Pennsylvania.
- Nar-Anon: Nar-Anon Family Groups help people who feel desperation around the substance use disorder of someone they are close to.
- SMART Recovery Family & Friends: SMART Recovery offers online and in-person meetings for loved ones.
- Family Therapy: Find a therapist who specializes in substance use issues.
As a result of the opioid crisis, more grandparents and extended relatives are raising children in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s KinConnector Helpline was created to connect grandparents and other caregiver relatives to local, state, and federal resources, including:
- Physical and mental health services
- Health care coverage
- Social Security
- School enrollment help
- Support groups
- Financial assistance
- Legal aid
- Other caregiver resources
The helpline is staffed by compassionate and knowledgeable social service professionals and is available:
- Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Call 1-866-546-2111 to access the KinConnector Helpline.
Help a Loved One Get Treatment
Starting a conversation about getting help isn’t easy. These tips from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism are helpful for talking with your loved one about getting treatment:
- Think about what you are going to say before you say it. Consider a role-playing practice with someone else.
- Choose the right time to talk. Your loved one should be sober for this. Avoid having this chat at celebrations and on holidays.
- Try to be calm and supportive. Your loved one’s life may be in chaos right now. You can be a calming influence.
- Don’t gang up on the person. It’s important that they feel supported, not threatened.
- Stick with the facts. A person with substance use disorder has a medical problem. Treatment works, and recovery is possible. Let them know you’re here to help them find a good plan of action.
The National Association of Children of Addiction educates and supports children and family members to lead healthy lives despite being hurt by substance use disorder. The organization teaches the “seven Cs” for helping kids cope with parental substance use:
I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.
I can help take care of myself by communicating my feelings, making healthy choices, and celebrating me.
Alateen has chats for young people, ages 13 to 18, who have been affected by someone else’s substance use. Register for an Alateen Chat.
Whether you’ve just discovered your child’s substance use or you need a new approach, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ Parent Helpline is here to help you:
- By text: Text your question to 55753 for a response within 24 hours
- By phone: Call 1-855-378-4373 to speak with a specialist (9 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. on weekends)
- By email: Send a message to a helpline specialist
Knowing the facts can help your child get on the road to recovery:
- Substance use changes the brain, which can make drug use compulsive.
- Expecting your child to quit cold turkey is unrealistic.
- Intervening early is better than waiting for “rock bottom.”
- Your child can have mixed feelings about treatment, and it still can be effective.
- Resumed use is common and often occurs before achieving long-term recovery.
- Positive behavior and communication skills are more effective than punishment.
- It’s crucial to find the best treatment for your child’s unique needs.
- Medication-assisted treatment is the gold standard of care for opioid use disorder.
- Using person-first language is proven to reduce stigma and improve treatment.
This crisis toolkit has resources for parents of loved ones with substance use disorder.
Support on Social Media
Opioid Use Disorder and the Wolf Administration
The Wolf administration has made the fight against opioid use disorder a top priority. Since Governor Wolf took office, he and his administration have worked with the General Assembly to take aggressive steps to combat opioids, making Pennsylvania a national leader in the fight.
In 2015, Governor Wolf expanded Medicaid, which has allowed more than 125,000 Pennsylvanians with an opioid use disorder to access treatment. Without this expansion, thousands of Pennsylvanians would be suffering without help.
Governor Wolf signed a first-of-its-kind statewide disaster declaration to enhance state response, increase access to treatment, and save lives. This disaster declaration is bolstering the administration’s existing response by speeding up and expanding access to treatment, improving tools for families, first responders, and others, and further enhancing coordination and data collection to improve state and local response.
Governor Wolf also has provided funding to implement 45 Centers of Excellence throughout the commonwealth that have connected tens of thousands of people with substance use disorder to life-saving treatment.
Governor Wolf signed legislation that limits the number of opioids a patient can receive in emergency rooms to a seven-day supply with no refills, and put the same restriction in place for minors, no matter where they get a prescription.
Additional steps the Wolf Administration has taken to combat the crisis include:
- Launching a prescription drug monitoring program that allows prescribers and dispensers to monitor who is obtaining opioids, who prescriptions are being obtained from, and how often they are prescribed.
- Making naloxone available to all Pennsylvanians through a standing order.
- Distributing naloxone to police departments, first responders , and schools.
- Expanding the use of prescription drug take-back boxes.
- Developing a warm handoff policy to get those who have overdosed directly into treatment.
- Improving prescribing guidelines for the safe and effective use of opioids, including in sports medicine, for minors and Pennsylvanians on Medicaid, as well as improving education for medical professionals on opioid prescribing.
- Launching a 24/7 helpline, 1-800-662-HELP, for those who need immediate assistance with drug and alcohol problems.
- Developing effective opioid tapering practices for medical professionals.
- Launching a workgroup on infants with substance exposure to work on Plans of Safe Care.
- Starting collaboratives to work on improving care for mothers and babies.
- Requiring medical students to take opioid prescribing curriculum.
- Requiring Pennsylvania physicians to take two hours of education in pain management.
The commonwealth is making progress when it comes to battling this public health crisis, but this is not the end of the administration’s efforts.