Washington County Public Health & Environment is working in collaboration with partners to prevent overdose deaths in our community.
- Washington County Substance Use and Overdose Profile (Minnesota Department of Health)
- Principles of Harm Reduction (National Harm Reduction Coalition)
Opioids are a category of drugs that includes fentanyl, heroin, and prescription drugs like oxycodone.
Opioids can be used for medical purposes, most commonly to treat pain. Some people also use opioids for non-medical reasons because they can cause a pleasurable, relaxing effect.
Opioids can be dangerous when used without medical supervision, particularly due to the risk of fatal overdose. An opioid overdose can happen when someone uses too large of an amount, causing their breathing to slow or stop. Some opioids, like fentanyl, are very concentrated, making it easy to accidentally use too much which might lead to a deadly overdose.
A person who uses opioids can also develop an Opioid Use Disorder, also known as opioid addiction, which is a long-term health condition that can have a serious impact on a person’s life.
The opioid crisis is also known as the overdose crisis or the opioid epidemic. It is the worsening trend of overdose deaths across the country.
It began in the early 1990s with the over-prescription of pain medications. Today, the overdose crisis is mostly driven by fentanyl, a very strong opioid that people often use in combination with other drugs.
Any person can be negatively impacted by opioids, but the opioid crisis is currently harming some people more than others. In Minnesota, groups like communities of color, indigenous communities, and LGBTQIA+ communities are disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis. These kinds of disparities can be caused by factors like unequal access to resources and can be worsened by systemic inequity across our society’s systems.