Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to some common questions about opioid use, addiction, recovery, and support.

Why are opioids so addictive?

Opioid addiction changes the way the brain functions permanently and is the only drug to do so. From the first time someone uses an opioid, either for pain reduction or recreationally, the opioid engages in an opioid brain receptor. When the opioid engages the receptor, it essentially turns a key. This is what reduces pain, or what gets someone high. There are three responses to having an opioid engage the receptor:

  1. The opioid sends a message throughout our body to tell us we are in less pain.
  2. Our system doesn’t agree with it, so in turn we get sick and vomit, this typically is a response to improper binding.
  3. We have a warm, dreamy, euphoric high.

All three of these reactions can occur at once. When the opioid engages the receptor, this will cause our vital signs to drop (blood pressure, blood oxygen level, core body temperature). Our brain is a complex organ that doesn’t want our vitals signs to drop, so in turn, it will auto adjust our body back to normal while the opioid is still engaged in the brain receptor. This creates a new normal in the brain that will never completely return to the previous level. Eventually when the opioid wears off, the new normal is not being met and the vital signs aren’t being maintained so your body goes into withdrawal. Someone can go into withdrawal after the first to third time using an opioid.

What are opioids?

Opioids are a type of drug that come from the opium poppy or are synthetically made by a drug company. Opioids are depressants, which means they slow down the nervous system, including your breath.


  • Heroin – illegal
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®) – prescription
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®) – prescription
  • Methadone – addiction treatment
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone)– addiction treatment
  • Morphine
  • Codeine

Know The Facts:

  • Because prescription drugs are prescribed by doctors, 4 in 10 teens believe getting high on prescription medication is not dangerous.
    1 in 5 teens abuse prescription drugs.
  • Physical dependence to opioids develops quickly.
  • Repeated use of prescription pain medication often leads to heroin addiction.
  • You can overdose on any opioid if you take enough of it regardless of strength.

How can there be a heroin problem in my community?

Heroin is no longer the drug of back alleys in big cities; it is more socially accepted by today’s youth and widely available in communities across the country.

The purity of heroin is so high (60 to 80 percent pure in many cases) that it can be snorted or smoked, just like cocaine, and therefore doesn’t create the automatic stigma heroin always had. Also, heroin is cheap — $4 to $6 a bag — and lures first-time users in as a substitute to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or other drugs because it is a cheaper alternative.

Unfortunately, it is very addictive and the craving for a stronger “high” often results in injecting the drug, just like the stereotypical heroin user.

A generation ago, there were drugs available to tempt youth in the suburbs and elsewhere. Sometimes the temptation spiraled into extreme situations and tragedies. Heroin is now one of those drugs that are available to children in communities across America for experimentation. But there is nothing experimental about using heroin and it is only in “extreme” situations where tragedies do not occur.

I am concerned that my child is addicted to drugs. What should I do?

  • Get educated about the disease of addiction.
  • Find Treatment for your loved one.
  • Be ready in the case of an overdose; get trained in rescue breathing and nasal Naloxone (Narcan) administration.
  • Get Support for you and your family.

In general, what are the steps in treating opiate addiction?

Opiate addiction is the most serious and difficult addiction to address, requiring a multi-step process that often results in relapses. While private health insurance plans offer some financial assistance during the critical detoxification phase, opiate addiction is extremely difficult to overcome and private resources and/or extreme vigilance is required afterward (see the question below on expectations).

Many private health insurance plans will pay for a 10-day outpatient treatment program, which often results in a 3- to 7-day inpatient detoxification program. It is at this point private health plans usually lapse and the financial responsibilities fall to the family.

One alternative is for the family to provide strong vigilance and support for the addicted child as he or she seeks daily (or more) support from various 12-step programs available in the community. However, many of the same temptations will exist if the addict returns to the environment in which the addiction started and a family should do everything possible to either change the environment or insulate the child from it.

If financial resources are available, another alternative is to send your child to a residential treatment program for an additional 30-day period. These programs offer a safe, drug-free environment that provides a regimented schedule of counseling and support sessions designed to assist in coping with the addictions and the cravings they create.

In addition to a residential support program, long-term residential programs (more commonly referred to as half-way houses) are available for a six-month period to provide structure and counseling programs for addicts.

There are limited beds available for publicly funded detoxification, transitional and long-term residential treatment programs. If your child is 18 years or older and health benefits have been exhausted, heroin addiction will often put your child into a financial situation that would make them eligible for publicly funded programs, if beds are available.

Where can I find local treatment facilities for my child?

Contact the Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline at 800-327-5050 or online at Also click here for a partial list of regional treatment facilities, broken out by detox, transitional and residential (note that this list is not meant to be a complete overview and that there is a shortage of adolescence, under 18, treatment options).

What is Sectioning (Section 35)?

A section 35 is a civil commitment of a person that is having alcohol or substance abuse issues.

For more information on the Section 35 process in Massachusetts click the link below:

Once my child is in treatment, is the hard part over?

Unfortunately not. We would like to tell you that once your child is in treatment you can expect a full recovery and everything will be fine. But experience shows that heroin addiction is very powerful and relapses are very common. We tell you this not to discourage you, but to give you the strength to understand and set proper expectations for you and your family. Click here for more information on expectations for treatment results.

What Is Narcan (Naloxone)?

Naloxone is a complete opiate antagonist used to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. It is completely safe and effective with no potential for abuse. It prevents the opiates from attaching to the part of the brain that is affected when too many opiates are used, causing respiratory depression and eventually death. In Massachusetts, there is a nasal spray available. It is completely legal for you to carry, protected under the Good Samaritan Law (M.G.L.c.94c.). Narcan wears off in 30-90 minutes so the individual can overdose again. An individual who has received Narcan should ALWAYS seek medical attention.

Where can I obtain Narcan?

There is a standing order at all Walgreens pharmacies in MA and an individual can go into the pharmacy and purchase it through their insurance. All Learn to Cope meetings provide Narcan for FREE.

Where can I dispose of my unused, unwanted or expired medications?

The Rockland Police station, as well as many of the surrounding town’s police departments, have medication drop boxes within their lobby. Anyone can drop off their medications into this box with no questions asked.