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Opioids and substance use

Do you need help right now? Call a 24/7 Access Point. These are treatment sites that use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other therapies to treat substance use disorders. And they’re here for you anytime, day or night.

You can find substance use disorder (SUD) and opioid use disorder (OUD) providers and treatment for adolescents and people who are pregnant, postpartum and/or parenting later on this page.

24/7 Access Points

Community Medical Services (CMS)
2806 W. Cactus Road 
Phoenix, AZ 85029 

Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI)
560 S. Bellview
Mesa, AZ 85204 

Intensive Treatment Systems (ITS)
4136 N 75th Ave Ste 116
Phoenix, AZ 85033 

Need to find real-time info about services in Arizona? Use the AHCCCS Opioid Use Disorder Real-Time Service Availability Locator.

Substance use disorder

Substance use disorder

Do you or someone you care about have a substance use disorder? This happens when the use of alcohol or another substance (“drug”) leads to health issues or problems at work, school or home.

Opioids come in two forms: illegal (“street” drugs) like heroin, opium and fentanyl. And prescription pain relievers, like:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Methadone
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (Percocet or OxyContin)

Some opioids that providers use in treatment are:

  • Methadone
  • Suboxone
  • Subutex (Buprenorphine)

Prescription opioids for pain are usually safe when you take them for a short time — exactly as your doctor says. But they’re easy to use the wrong way. Some people take more than their doctor says. Others take them without a prescription. This is called misuse.

Opioids are powerful substances. In fact, they have effects similar to heroin. About 4 of 5 people who use heroin started with misusing prescription opioids.

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is for the treatment of severe pain, like advanced cancer. Doctors prescribe it as a patch (on skin) or lozenge. 

Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. This puts it at risk for misuse and abuse. Recent cases of harm, overdose, and death are related to fentanyl that’s made and sold illegally. Sometimes it’s mixed with heroin or cocaine to increase “the high.” So users never know what they’re getting.

Other ways to treat pain

Other ways to treat pain

Did you know? Studies show that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen work:

  • Better than opioids for pain from dental surgery

  • Better than opioids for pain from kidney stones

  • About the same as opioids for low-back pain

Get help for chronic (long-term) pain

Many people have chronic pain with different causes, like:

Your provider can prescribe other medicines or treatments for chronic pain. Some of these may work better than opioids. And they don't have the same side effects or risk of addiction.

You can get more tips about managing chronic pain. And find other ways to treat pain that don’t involve opioids. 

Naloxone saves lives from overdose

Naloxone is a life-saving medicine that can treat an opioid overdose by blocking the effects. But a person has to receive it in time. And some people need more than one dose. That’s why you’ll want to get that person to an emergency department right away. 

Are you, a friend or family member using opioids? Consider having naloxone on hand. You could save a life. You can get supplies and training.

Anyone in Arizona can pick up naloxone from a pharmacy without a prescription. Your doctor or pharmacist can explain when and how to use it.

You may not know what an overdose looks like. Here are some signs:

  • Small pinpoint pupils
  • Loss of consciousness (appears asleep)
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Pale, blue or cold skin

Not sure if it’s an overdose? Don’t take any chances. Call 911 right away and don’t leave the person alone.

Learn more about opioid prevention.

The truth about opioids

In a study of 240 veterans with chronic back pain, Motrin (ibruprofen) plus Tylenol (acetaminophen) worked better than opioids.

Aside from the risks of use and overdose, opioids can cause side effects like:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Depression 
  • Increased sensitivity to pain 
  • Infectious diseases
  • Itching and sweating
  • Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy and strength 
  • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth 
  • Physical dependence (symptoms of withdrawal when you stop a medication) 
  • Sleepiness and dizziness 
  • Slowed breathing and death
  • Tolerance (needing to take more of a medication for the same pain relief) 

The risks can increase when someone has a history of drug misuse, substance use disorder or overdose. Mental health conditions and sleep apnea can also increase the risks. 

What does opioid dependence look like?

Your body starts to rely on the substance to feel normal. If you stop taking it too quickly or lower your dose, you may have some early withdrawal symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Later in withdrawal, people can have: 

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goose bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms can be very hard to manage and can be uncomfortable. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be dependent on opioids. They can help you with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other therapies.

During pregnancy, most things in the mother’s blood can pass to the baby. When someone uses opioids during pregnancy, two conditions can happen in babies:

  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS): withdrawal from certain medicines or drugs

  • Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS): withdrawal from opioids

After birth, the baby no longer receives the medicines or drugs in the mother’s body. Signs of withdrawal may start right after birth and last up to 6 months from then.

Learn more about having a healthy baby: English | Spanish

Talk with your doctor about stopping opioids safely

Your provider knows the best way to stop or manage medicine and other substances during pregnancy. Work closely with them. This gives babies the best chance to be healthy. If you’re taking opioids, don’t stop suddenly. This can cause severe problems for both you and your baby. Get help from your doctor. They know the safest way to help you stop. 

Learn more about treatment

Prevent shaken baby syndrome

Crying and fussiness are just a few possible signs of NAS/NOWS. This can be stressful for a new mom. When you’re tired and frustrated, it’s easy to forget how fragile a baby’s head and neck are. Never shake a baby for any reason. This can cause abusive head trauma, or shaken baby syndrome. And crying is the most common trigger for caregivers to shake and injure babies. 

Tell anyone who cares for your baby what to do when your baby cries. And be kind to yourself with a break when you need it. Family and friends usually love to help. Learn more about shaken baby syndrome and how to prevent it.

Connect with care

Are you or someone you know pregnant with a substance use disorder? Get help early. We can help connect you with care. Just email Holli Mays. 

It’s common for people who use opioids to search for them in medicine cabinets like yours. It might be a friend of your teen or someone who comes to do home repairs. 

Do you have some leftover pain medicine? You’ll want to dispose of it right away. Use this Arizona map to find places to safely dispose of your pain medicine.

If you think you have a problem, you can get help. It may feel hard to talk about, but your provider can help. They deal with addiction on a regular basis. And they know how to help you.  

Mercy Care members

Need to find a provider? Mercy Care members can check our provider directory for treatment. First, choose your health plan. Then, under “Specialists,” choose:

  • “Other,” then “pain control” for help managing pain

  • “Addiction medicine” for treatment of a substance use disorder

Check this list to find Substance Use Disorder (SUD)/ Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (SUD/MOUD) providers who serve adolescents and people who are pregnant, postpartum and/or parenting.

You can also call Mercy Care Member Services at  602-263-3000 or toll-free 1-800-624-3879 (TTY 711). We’re here for you 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

If you don’t have a health plan

No health insurance? You may be able to use federal funds for treatment. Learn about the Substance Abuse Block Grant.  

You can find treatment and providers at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family.

If you do have a health plan, be sure that any providers you find are in your plan’s network. Sometimes you need prior authorization (permission) from your health plan before seeing a provider.

For our AZ community and Mercy Care members

Visit our community resource guide for more info and support for opioids and substance use.

Resources for providers

Arizona Opioid Assistance and Referral Line: 1-888-688-4222

How to CSPMP videos

Arizona opioid prescribing guidelines (PDF)

Arizona pain and addiction curriculum faculty guide (PDF)

Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction

CDC updated guidelines

Not yet a member?

Learn about becoming a member in Mercy Care Medicaid plans or Mercy Care Advantage.