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University of Minnesota Extension

Understanding opioid addiction and treatment

The opioid crisis has had a heavy impact on people living in the United States and has resulted in many preventable deaths across Minnesota and the rest of the nation. The opioid crisis has reached all of our communities, and if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you are not alone.  

Where can I find a treatment center?

Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
The National Helpline is free and confidential. It is available 24/7, 365 days a year. 

What are the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose and what do I do?

An overdose can dangerously slow or stop breathing. This can cause brain damage or death. It’s important to recognize the signs and act fast. Signs of an overdose can  include: 

  • Falling asleep or loss of consciousness (inability to rouse) 
  • Slow, shallow breathing (less than 12 breaths per minute)
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Pale, blue, or cold skin  
  • Small pupil

It may be hard to tell if a person is high or experiencing an overdose. If you aren’t sure, it’s best to treat it like an overdose. 

  • Immediately call 911
  • Administer naloxone, if available.
  • Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
  • Lay the person on their side to prevent choking. 
  • Stay with the person until emergency workers arrive. 

Learn more about naloxone (Narcan) and find contact information for Minnesota Narcan availability. 

What is opioid addiction?

Substance use disorder (SUD), commonly called addiction, is a chronic disease like diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma.  

  • Addiction is not a matter of personality, willpower or weakness. 
  • Anyone can become addicted. 
  • Drug addiction (substance use disorder) is a disease that affects the structure of the brain and people’s behavior.  
  • Experimenting with recreational drugs or prescribed pain medication can lead to drug dependence or addiction.

Learn more about opioid use


Treatment and recovery options

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease, like heart disease or diabetes. A chronic disease is a medical condition for life. It cannot be cured, but it can be managed. However, a person with addiction can have a healthy, productive life with treatment.  


The University of Minnesota, Tribal Nations, public health agencies, South Dakota State University and community members are working together to strengthen community resources that prevent opioid use and create healthy environments for those working toward recovery. As part of this work, Extension's American Indian Resource and Resiliency Team (AIRRT) creates and delivers culturally adapted holistic health education. Learn more about our work with communities and find local prevention and recovery resources. 

Laura Palombi, Pharm.D., MPH, MAT, Associate Professor College of Pharmacy
Keri Hager, Pharm.D., BCAC, Associate Professor College of Pharmacy

Reviewed in 2020

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