Pain Relievers (Opioids)

Codeine, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin.

Prescription opioids are pain relievers. These medications also affect areas of the brain that control emotion, which can cause feelings of euphoria. (NIDA)

Opioid Opioid

Tablets, capsules, transdermal patches.

When taken as prescribed, opioids are safe and effective. They can treat moderate to severe pain and are most often needed after surgery, injury, or for conditions such as cancer. (CDC)

Misuse of prescription opioids can be extremely dangerous. Misuse includes taking medication in any way other than prescribed. For example, using another person’s medication or injecting/snorting an oral medication. (NIDA)

In addition to relieving pain, they can also cause euphoria which can lead to misuse or abuse of the medications. Other effects can include drowsiness, constipation, and slowed breathing. 

In a single large dose, prescription opioids can cause severe respiratory depression and death. When mixed with other substances that suppress the central nervous system, such as alcohol, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines, even small amounts can lead to fatal overdose. (NIDA)

Taken exactly as prescribed, these medications can manage pain effectively. But chronic use or abuse of opioids can result in physical dependence and addiction. Dependence means that the body adapts to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced or stopped. Symptoms of withdrawal include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes.

Tolerance to the drugs’ effects also occurs with long-term use, so users must take higher doses to achieve the same or similar effects as experienced initially. Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite negative consequences. (NIDA)

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