Opioid Resources

Opioids in the News

What are opioids?

Opioids include three categories of pain-relieving drugs: (1) natural opioids (also called opiates) which are derived from the opium poppy, such as morphine and codeine; (2) semi-synthetic opioids, such as the prescription drugs hydrocodone and oxycodone and the illicit drug heroin; (3) synthetic opioids, such as methadone, tramadol, and fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl analogues, such as carfentanil, can be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Overdose deaths from fentanyl have greatly increased since 2013 with the introduction of illicitly-manufactured fentanyl entering the drug supply [CDC 2016b; CDC 2018b]. The National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA 2018] has more information about types of opioids.

                                                                                                 -             - Centers for Disease Control 

What is the opioid epidemic?

From 1999–2018, almost 450,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids.

This rise in opioid overdose deaths can be outlined in three distinct waves.

  1. The first wave began with increased prescribing of opioids in the 1990s, with overdose deaths involving prescription opioids (natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone) increasing since at least 1999.

  2. The second wave began in 2010, with             rapid increases in overdose deaths                 involving heroin

  3. The third wave began in 2013, with significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly those involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The market for illicitly manufactured fentanyl continues to change, and it can be found in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine.

                                                                                                               - Centers for Disease Control

Can an opioid overdose be reversed?

An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone when given right away. Improvements have been seen in some regions of the country in the form of decreasing availability of prescription opioid pain relievers and decreasing misuse among the Nation’s teens. However, since 2007, overdose deaths related to heroin have been increasing. Fortunately, effective medications exist to treat opioid use disorders including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

A NIDA study found that once treatment is initiated, both a buprenorphine/naloxone combination and an extended release naltrexone formulation are similarly effective in treating opioid addiction. However, naltrexone requires full detoxification, so initiating treatment among active users was more difficult. These medications help many people recover from opioid addiction.

                                                                                                           - National Institute on Drug Abuse



Pittsburgh launches opioid overdose dashboard

The dashboard uses EMS data to map monthly calls and responses

March, 8, 2021

By Laura French

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh has launched an opioid overdose dashboard that uses EMS data to map overdose calls across the city. 

The dashboard includes neighborhood-level mapping, patient demographic statistics, information on how often naloxone was administered and by who, and data on whether or not overdose patients were transported to the hospital.

"While this is a data-driven initiative, it's really about using all the resources at the City's disposal into giving our residents a helping hand. That means cross-department coordination, best practices in care and support, and now a Dashboard to help guide our work as effectively as possible," Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said in a statement







The Pittsburg Opioid Overdose Dashboard provides neighborhood-level mapping and statistics on patient demographics,

naloxone administration and patient transport.  (Photo/Pittsburgh Public Safety)


Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said the dashboard will help EMS, fire and police responders better understand overdose responses in the city and guide the public safety department toward actionable solutions in addressing the opioid crisis. 

The city's Overdose Prevention Program Coordinator will partner with Pittsburgh EMS and the Allegheny County Health Department's CDC-funded Data to Action program in using the data to strengthen overdose response, prevention and harm reduction efforts. In addition to the public dashboard, the city Office of Community Health and Safety will issue weekly reports to city staff and partner organizations, including healthcare, public health and harm reduction organizations, to help coordinate an equitable response to the overdose crisis and engage with community leaders in the city's most impacted neighborhoods. 

"In response to the worsening crisis, the Office of Community Health and Safety is committed to utilizing insights gained from improved data analysis to inform progressive opioid overdose prevention strategies that seek to reduce harm associated with drug use, employ a person-first approach, and address social determinants of health, said Office of Community Health and Safety Manager Laura Drogoswski, in a statement.