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Opioids and Overdose Prevention

Learn signs of overdose, how naloxone works, how to get help, find recommended publications, access data sources, and get additional resources

Get help

If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol use, there is help available through the Washington County Crisis Line at 503-291-9111. The line is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Hawthorn Walk-in Center is a confidential and free resource in Washington County. For other substance use treatment and peer support, please see this page.

If your child is struggling with drug or alcohol use, they can contact the Oregon YouthLine (text or call) at 1-877-968-8491 or text 'teen2teen' at 839863.

Washington County’s harm reduction program aims to protect the community and promote public safety by reducing potential harms from injection drug use such as the spread of infections like HIV and hepatitis C, syringe litter in communities, and overdose deaths. Visit the harm reduction program page to learn about local syringe exchange locations and services.

Overdose is a medical emergency!

If you or someone you know is using drugs, there is a risk for overdose. Assume anything not given by a pharmacy or your medical provider is fake and could contain a fatal dose of fentanyl or another potentially fatal drug. Know the signs of overdose, don't use alone, and use the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Opioids and fentanyl can cause breathing to slow or stop. This decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain. If not treated immediately, an overdose can result in organ failure and death. Overdoses can occur within a few minutes to over a couple hours.

Signs of an overdose:

  • Difficult or unable to wake up
  • Slow or no breathing
  • Bluish or pale lips and fingernails
  • Pale or clammy skin
  • Abnormal snoring or breathing sounds
  • Vomiting or foaming at the mouth

If someone is unconscious or has any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Reduce overdose risk

What you can do to reduce overdose risk if you or someone you know uses drugs:

  • Carry naloxone (name brand "Narcan"). Naloxone is a safe medicine that reverses the effects of opioids and can prevent death when someone overdoses. Oregon’s Good Samaritan Law protects from prosecution the person who administers naloxone and the person who is overdosing. Naloxone is available at local pharmacies. It is available over-the-counter OR with a doctor or pharmacist prescription. You can get discount coupons at If you are on the Oregon Health Plan, it is free to you. You may also be able to have naloxone mailed to you. Visit NEXT Distro's website for more information.
Watch this video for how to use nasal naloxone. Washington County has no affiliation with and is not endorsing the maker of this video.
  • Don’t use alone. Have someone with you so they can help if you overdose and lose consciousness.
  • Don’t trust your drug tolerance. Drug content and potency is not predictable, even within the same batch. Even people who have a high tolerance for opioids face an increased risk of death because of the inconsistency in the drug supply. Always go slow and do a test amount.
  • Avoid mixing drugs. This increases the overdose risk. Opioids, alcohol and benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Valium) slow your breathing.

What are opioids?

Opioids are a group of medications prescribed for pain. They are highly addictive. Some examples of opioids are Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet. Prescription pain medicine can help treat severe and sudden pain, such as pain from a car accident or surgery. Opioids can also lead to addiction and death from accidental overdose. Heroin and fentanyl are opioids that are sold on the street and can be bought in pill or powder form.

Talk to your doctor about the risks of using opioids. Ask if there are other options to manage your pain. See this pain education toolkit for more information. 

It is not safe to use someone else's medication or to use prescriptions in any way other than how your doctor instructed.

What is fentanyl?

Two milligrams of fentanyl shown next to a penny

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid prescribed for severe pain and anesthesia, but fentanyl is also illegally manufactured and distributed in the community. Fentanyl is tasteless and odorless. A tiny amount can kill. It can be sold in many colors and forms including pills, powder and chalk-like blocks.

Cheap, counterfeit substances containing fentanyl are thought to be fueling an increase in fatal drug overdoses across the Portland Metro region. It is very difficult to tell if they are counterfeit. Fentanyl is often mixed into fake pills made to look like prescription Oxycontin and Xanax that come from a pharmacy. Counterfeit pills are especially dangerous because people are often unaware that fentanyl is in them. People who buy these from the internet, social media, friends or dealers may unknowingly be getting fentanyl.  

Get rid of unneeded prescriptions

Getting rid of unused prescriptions can help prevent substance misuse and accidental poisoning. When medicine is in your house, keep it in a secure place. Get rid of old, extra or unused substances by taking them to a local drop-off site. Never flush drugs down the toilet or put them in the garbage.



Overdose Prevention FAQ (PDF 154.1 KB)


Fact sheets/handouts

Understanding Xylazine (PDF 1.49 MB)

Data sources