What are opioids, including heroin?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. 

What do the data tell us about opioid use in Vermont?

The percentage of Vermonters reporting prescription pain reliever misuse is going down significantly in Vermont, particularly for 18-25 year olds.

While past year heroin use prevalence remains under 1% for people 12 and older (as it does for all states), Vermonters in the 18-25 year-old age group have among the highest use rates in the country. A report from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration found that in any given year almost 80% of new heroin users in America had misused prescription pain relievers.

The general pattern for Vermont is similar to the national trend: prescription drug misuse has slowly gone down and access to treatment for those dependent on opioids has increased.

What are the health risks of opioid use?

There are short-term and long-term physical and mental effects of opioid use.

  • Dependence and addiction
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Death
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How can you reduce health risks of opioid use?

Opioids that have been prescribed to you:

  • Don't drink alcohol while using opioids
  • Stop using as soon as your pain is manageable
  • Never share your prescription opioids
  • Store opioids in a secure place and safely get rid of unused medication

Learn more at RxAware.

Reduce the risk of overdose:

  • Avoid using alone
  • Use new syringes
  • Test for fentanyl
  • Start with a small amount
  • Carry Narcan® (naloxone) nasal spray and know how to use it
  • Call 911 in case of overdose

Learn more at KnowOD.

Help is available

VT Helplink alcohol and drug support center logo

VT Helplink alcohol and drug support center provides information, support and referrals for substance use treatment, recovery and harm-reduction services in Vermont. 



Parent Up provides tips for parents and caregivers about talking with their kids about alcohol and cannabis. 


Know OD provides harm-reduction information for people who use opioids about preventing and reversing overdose.



Rx Aware provides health risk information for people who have opioid prescriptions to reduce addiction and overdose

Contact Us
Substance Use Programs (DSU)

Vermont Department of Health
280 State Street
Waterbury, VT 05671-8340


More Info
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Opioid Overdose Response Initiatives
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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