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Opioids have been in the United States since 1775. They can be derived naturally or synthetically and carry a high risk of addiction that can lead to overdose if misused.

Some of the most commonly used prescription opioids include morphine, OxyContin, Oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin, Norco, Hydrocodone and the fentanyl/Duragesic patch.

Any of these can be misused or abused, as well as the illicit opioids heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and other synthetic opioids.

Misuse and addiction happen because opioids can cause changes in brain chemistry that result in cravings. Once users stop, withdrawal symptoms can kick in, driving them to want it even more. This is why people who are addicted need help to quit and often cannot do so on their own.

According to government statistics, in 2015, roughly 2 million people suffered from opioid-use disorder. An average of 25 percent of individuals with chronic pain are opioid dependent. One out of every 550 patients who starts an opioid prescription between ages 15 and 64 dies 2.6 years after their first prescription because of opioid-related causes.

Between 4 and 6 percent of those who misuse opioid prescriptions transition to heroin. It is estimated that 30 percent of new heroin users become dependent in the first year, and 59 percent of heroin-overdose deaths involve at least one other drug.

Between July 2016 and September 2017, opioid overdoses rose 30 percent in 45 states; in the Midwestern region, the increase was 70 percent.

Last fall, University of Illinois Extension was approached about doing a program about opioid use in our community.

Kathy Sweedler and I realized that this was not a topic that was in our wheelhouse and decided to host an event to bring in other experts to talk about the issue and highlight local resources.

The event is set for tonight at the UI Extension office at 801 N. Country Fair Drive, C. Doors open around 5:30 p.m. with resource tables available, following by a screening of the film "The Heroin Project" at 6.

The documentary looks at the heroin epidemic in Madison County and shows how it affects the entire community.

According to the filmmakers, "Heroin is a silent killer that is affecting every single one of us. Chances are you know someone who has been directly impacted by the devastating effects of heroin. Even if addiction does not directly affect your family, our community faces the consequences of this drug on a daily basis. The cost of increased law-enforcement efforts, the stolen goods from businesses and the drug dealers who are targeting our youth harm our community every single day."

Following the movie, a panel of local experts will be on hand to talk and answer questions. Confirmed panelists include Jonathan Sweedler, a UI chemistry professor and director of the Neuroproteomics and Neurometabolomics Center on Cell-Cell Signaling, which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse; as well as representatives from Dominion Diagnostic, Rosecrance, Chestnut Health Systems, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, UI police and the Champaign Fire Department.

The health district, Rosecrance, Chestnut Health Systems and Dominion Diagnostic will also be hosting resources tables.

If you are interested in attending, please register by visiting or calling 217-333-7672. Walk-ins are also welcome. Popcorn will be provided.

To read more family-life topics, visit the statewide family-life blog, "Family Files," at For more information on family-life-related topics and programs, go to or contact Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker at 217-333-7672 or

National resources for families

Substance Abuse and Mental Health services Administration: or 877-726-4727

SAMHSA Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit:

National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Partnership for Drug Free Kids — "Heroin, Fentanyl & Other Opioids: A Comprehensive Resource for Families with a Teen of Young Adult Struggling with Opioid Use": or 855-378-4373.

National Families in Action:

Local resources

Rosecrance: or 217-693-4590

C-U Public Health District: or 217-352-7961

Local crisis line: 217-359-4141