Prevention Priorities - Prescription Medication/Opioids


When prescription mediciations are used as prescribed by a doctor for the individual they are prescribed for, they can be beneficial in treating many illnesses. Often, they are misused and the most commonly misused prescription medications are opioids. Opioids are a category of drugs that include some types of prescription medications as well as illicit drugs such as heroin. Opioids are also called narcotics. The term opiate refers to a drug derived from natural opium, while opioid includes synthetic and semi-synthetic substances created to have similar effects.

Opioids bind to the receptors in the body (especially in the brain) to reduce sensations of pain. Opioids also slow down body systems, and if misused, can lead to incidents of overdose and death. The prolonged use of opioids (whether with a prescription or not) may lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using opioids.


  • In 2018, approximately 3% of all respondents on the Iowa Youth Survey reported they had used prescription medications that were not prescribed to them (Iowa Youth Survey, 2018)
  • Drug overdose deaths are the third leading cause of injury deaths in Iowa and since 2010 drug overdose deaths have increased 38 percent (IDPH Vital Statistics, 2017)
  • In 2017, the drug overdose death rate was similar to motor vehicle traffic-related deaths. (IDPH Vital Statistics, 2017)


Good Samaritan Law

Narcan Save a Life

Prescription Drugs Are Still Drugs

Rx Awareness Campaign


Iowa's Good Samartian Law

IDPH Opioid Update Newsletter

Naloxone Iowa

Opioid Basics

Overdose Prevention

Who can I contact for more information?

Janet Nelson at 515-214-7950