Massachusetts Opioid Screening and Awareness Day |  September 22, 2020
Fighting Opioid Misuse in collaboration with the Brigham B-CORE program


For Individuals and Families
Opioid misuse is harmful with many negative consequences. If you or a loved one suspects that you may have a problem with opioids or other substances, please get help. Opioid misuse is a medical condition that can be effectively treated.

For Opioid Misuse
The Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline: Call the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline at 1-800-327-5050. The Massachusetts Helpline is available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 10 pm and on weekends from 8 am to 6 pm. This helpline is a public resource that can help you and your loved ones find licensed and approved substance use treatment and recovery services in the state of Massachusetts. Trained staff will help you to understand the treatment system and your options. Contacting this helpline is free and confidential. Assistance is available in multiple languages. You can also find treatment options 24 hours a day on their website.


    SAMHSA’s National HelplineCall SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or 1-800-487-4889. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. The National Helpline does not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

    How to Help a Loved One Seek Evaluation/Treatment

    1. Engage in positive communication, but do not reward addictive behaviors.
    2. Understand that your loved one is ill, not bad or weak, but let them know how you feel about their behaviors.
    3. Set limits on what you can tolerate, but do not emotionally abandon.
    4. Make companioned efforts to get your loved one to treatment and consult other trusted adults in their world to assist you in this critical and lifesaving task. This may even require calling 911.

    A person can overdose on either prescription opioids (like oxycodone or hydrocodone) or non-prescription opioids (like heroin and fentanyl). An opioid overdose can make a person stop breathing and die or suffer brain damage. If you suspect that someone has overdosed on an opioid, you should call 911 so that he or she can receive immediate medical attention. If you have naloxone, administer it. If trained, you may also need to start CPR even before medical personnel arrive. Every minute counts. Call 911 immediately!

    When medical personnel arrive, they may administer naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that can treat an opioid overdose when given right away, though more than one dose may be needed.

    Most states have now passed laws that allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription. This allows friends, family and others in the community to obtain the auto-injector and nasal spray versions of naloxone (also called Narcan) in advance so they can be prepared to save someone who is overdosing.

    If you or someone you know is prescribed high dose opioids, uses illicit opioids, or if you live or work in an area where overdoses are common, it is important to obtain the naloxone now, before you need it. This will let you be prepared to take action immediately in the event of an overdose until medical personnel arrive. Minutes count.

    If you have administered naloxone to someone who has overdosed, you should still call 911 immediately, even if the person wakes up and starts talking. Naloxone’s effects can wear off before those of the opioids in the person’s system and they can stop breathing again. It is common to need to administer naloxone multiple times. If you give the naloxone and the person does not wake up, you may need to do CPR to keep them alive.

    The Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline website has additional information regarding naloxone/overdose prevention, available here.


    Those who misuse opioids are at heightened risk for suicide. If you, a friend, or a loved one is suicidal or exhibiting any suicidal warning signs, please contact a mental health professional, healthcare provider, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Upon calling the Lifeline, you will be connected to a trained counselor at one of the 150 crisis centers in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s network. These counselors can offer mental health support as well as referrals to local services. Calls are routed to the nearest available crisis center based on the caller’s area code. You can also dial 911. You can assist with getting to the nearest emergency room. Treat it in the same way you would treat any other medical emergency – like choking or a heart attack– and get help immediately!

    The Crisis Text Line: The Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 support via text messaging for those in crisis. Crisis is defined as “any painful emotion for which you need support.” To connect with a crisis counselor, text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States. It usually takes less than five minutes to connect, but may take longer during high-traffic times. The crisis counselor is a trained volunteer who will provide support, but not medical advice. You will then text back and forth with the Crisis Counselor. The goal of any conversation is to get you to a “calm, safe place.” Sometimes that means providing you with a referral to further help, and sometimes it just means “being there and listening.” A texting conversation usually lasts anywhere from 15-45 minutes.

    A common misconception is that asking people about suicide will put the idea into their heads. This is simply not true. A recent literature review found that acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce, rather than increase, suicidal ideation…” In fact, many people with suicidal thoughts are relieved by talking about them.

    The Suicide Risk Inventory tool can help people know what questions to ask. So ask those questions. Positive responses should be listened to and responded to with medical/mental health intervention. Listen to your loved ones. Many will drop hints or give warnings to friends and family about their suicidality, even if they won’t tell a clinician or counselor. Seventy percent of suicide victims tell someone or give a warning before taking their life.

    For more information, visit the Action Steps provided at

    Resources to Help You Find Treatment in Your Community


    Peer support services are non-clinical services that are often used alongside medical and behavioral treatment for opioid and other substance use disorders. These services are typically provided by “peers” who are also recovering from addictions. The idea is that those who are already in recovery will be able to use their own personal experiences to help those who want to work towards recovery.

    Examples of peer support include help with transportation to and from treatment and recovery-oriented activities as well as employment support. They can include special living situations, such as sober living houses, where residents in recovery live together in an alcohol and drug-free environment. Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, can also provide a supportive community for those trying to get away drugs.

    People with substance use disorders who participate in treatment approaches that also include peer support have higher success rates of abstinence and reduced rates of relapse and infections from HIV and Hepatitis C. Adding peer support to treatment is also associated with greater feelings of self-efficacy and less guilt and shame. In one study, living in a sober living house after inpatient treatment for substance use disorder led to higher income and fewer incarcerations.


    Family members (e.g., spouses, children, parents, and siblings) of people with addiction can also benefit from participating in support groups, located in school and community settings.

    Millions of American families are affected by the opioid epidemic. A recent article in the Washington Post (2018, July 3) by Alexandra Rockey Fleming describes how family members suffer collateral damage from their loved one’s addiction. Fleming calls these family members – who love and worry about the person – “Opioids’ Other Victims.” She states: “Many parents don’t survive the midnight calls about arrest, overdose, violence, and hospitalization emotionally intact.” (p. E3).

    Peer support has helped many parents suffering from isolation and anxiety caused by their children’s addictions. Some peer support groups offering free meetings or online support to family members include Nar-Anon, Families Anonymous, Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, Magnolia New Beginnings, Learn to Cope, and Partnership for Drug Free Kids.

    Younger children in these families need guidance and support. It is important to talk honestly with children about what is happening in the family and to help them express their concerns and feelings. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides some free educational booklets to help start this conversation. Family therapy can help both the person with addiction and their family members.

    Educational Resources for Users and Their Families

    • What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families
      Created for family members of people with alcohol or drug use problems. Answers questions about substance use disorders, its symptoms, different types of treatment, and recovery. Addresses concerns of children of parents with substance use/abuse problems.
    • Alcohol and Drug Addiction Happens in the Best of Families
      Describes how alcohol and drug addiction affect the whole family. Explains how substance use disorder treatment works, how family interventions can be a first step to recovery, and how to help children in families affected by alcohol and/or drug use.
    • It Feels So Bad: It Doesn’t Have To
      Provides information about alcohol and drug addiction to children whose parents or friends’ parents might have substance use problems. Advises kids to take care of themselves by communicating about the problem and joining support groups such as Alateen.
    • Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery from Mental Illness or Addiction
      Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance use disorders. Describes family therapists, explains how family therapy sessions are run, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.
    • Rx Pain Medications, Know the Options, Get the Facts: What Are the Risks of Opioid Pain Medications?
      A series of 13 fact sheets designed to increase awareness of the risks associated with prescription opioid use and misuse, as well as to educate patients who are prescribed opioids for pain about the risks and to provide resources on methods for alternative pain management. This particular fact sheet focuses on the side effects and interactions of pain medication including opioid use disorder and overdose.
    • Pharmacologic Guidelines for Treating Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Co-Occurring Opioid Use Disorders
      This manual offers guidelines for medication-assisted treatment for people, particularly veterans, living with post-traumatic stress disorder and co-occurring opioid use disorders. It covers screening, concomitant treatment, pharmacotherapy, and information on multiple misused substances.
    • Healthy Pregnancy Healthy Baby Fact Sheets
      This series of four fact sheets emphasizes the importance of continuing a mother’s treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) throughout pregnancy. The series includes information on OUD and pregnancy, OUD treatment, neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, and considerations to address before hospital discharge.