Opioids are a class of medication that doctors may prescribe to treat severe or persistent pain. However, opioids that people may use illegally, such as heroin, also exist.
Opioids may help people
However, people do not always use opioids as a doctor prescribes or for medicinal purposes. For example, many know heroin is an
This article reviews the different types of prescription opioids, illegal opioids, how opioids differ from opiates, and when to speak with a doctor.
Doctors prescribe opioids to treat moderate or severe pain. According to the
- recovery from major surgery
- advanced stages of cancer
- a serious injury
In some cases, a doctor may prescribe opioids for conditions that cause chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis. However, prescribing them for these conditions is controversial due to serious health risks and a lack of evidence about their long-term efficacy.
Therefore, people need to speak with their doctor about the potential risks and side effects of opioids.
Risks and side effects
While opioids may offer relief to individuals who have not experienced relief from other therapies, they come with several risks. These include:
Even at safe doses, they can cause side effects that may include:
- physical dependence
- increased sensitivity to pain
- dry mouth
- nausea and vomiting
- low testosterone levels, which may lead to lower strength, energy, and sex drive
As with any medication, if a doctor prescribes a person a Schedule 2 opioid, they should follow the doctor’s advice when taking it.
Some common examples of prescription opioids in the United States include:
|codeine||tablet, capsule, and liquid|
|methadone||tablet, dispersible tablet, and liquid|
|hydrocodone or dihydrocodeinone||capsule, liquid, and tablet|
|hydromorphone||liquid and suppository|
|meperidine||tablet and liquid|
|fentanyl||lozenge, sublingual tablet, film, and buccal tablet|
|morphine||tablet, liquid, capsule, and suppository|
|oxycodone||capsule, liquid, and tablet|
Some types of opioids, such as heroin,
In addition to the potential for a fatal overdose and addiction, using illegal opioids may lead to health issues that include:
- pregnancy issues, including:
- neonatal abstinence syndrome
- low birth weight
- pregnancy loss
- collapsed veins
- trouble breathing and respiratory depression
- impaired judgment
- increased risk of diseases of the liver, kidneys, or other organs
- increased risk of developing infections such as hepatitis and HIV
- slowed heart rate
Heroin is a prime example of an illegal opioid, but several other prescription opioids are well-known for illegal misuse, including:
People may use the terms “opioids” and “opiates” to refer to the group of drugs. However, they are not the same. As a result, individuals often blend the terms and use them interchangeably.
However, the term “opioids” refers to all opiates, including semisynthetic and synthetic opioids, which people typically make in laboratories. Examples of synthetic and semisynthetic opioids include:
Some people can develop opioid use disorder while taking prescription opioids. This disorder
People who use prescription opioids are also at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose. Healthcare professionals
The CDC notes that many overdose cases relating to opioid use involved the additional use of benzodiazepines. People should avoid taking opioids in combination with benzodiazepines, such as:
A person should speak with a doctor for further information before taking any medications to learn more about the potential risks and side effects. People with opioid use disorder should also speak with a healthcare professional for treatment and support.
Seeking help for addiction may seem daunting or even scary, but several organizations can provide support. If you believe that you or someone close to you is showing signs of addiction, you can contact the following organizations for immediate help and advice:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 800-662-4357 (TTY: 800-487-4889)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Opioids are a type of drug doctors typically prescribe to relieve pain. However, people also manufacture them for illegal use.
Though prescription opioids may help individuals with moderate to severe pain, they can also cause various side effects. They also have a risk of causing dependency and addiction in people who use them, particularly for long periods. A person should speak with a doctor about the risks and side effects of opioids.
People who take prescription opioids are also at risk of overdose. A person should discuss other medications they are taking with a doctor, as they may increase the risk of overdose.