What are Opioids?


Opioids are medications that are often prescribed to help relieve pain. They work by reducing the amount of pain signals that your body sends to your brain, and also change the way that your brain responds to pain. Opioids are commonly prescribed following surgeries, dental procedures, injuries and conditions that cause chronic pain, such as cancer.

With talk about the opioid epidemic all over the news, you might find yourself wondering, what are opioids? While opioids can be dangerous when abused, they can be helpful in treating pain when taken correctly. However, because of their addictive nature, it is so important to take opioids exactly as your doctor prescribes them.

What Drugs are Opioids?

There are several drugs that fall under the opioid umbrella. All of the drugs listed below are considered to be opioids:

  • Opium
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Paregoric
  • Sufentanil
  • Tramadol

What are Symptoms of an Opioid Addiction?

If you’re taking opioids, it’s important to be aware of the signs of addiction. The biggest warning signs are not being able to stop using the medication or using more than the prescribed amount.

These are the major symptoms of opioid abuse to look out for:

  • Poor coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow or slow breathing rate
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Physical agitation
  • Poor decicion making
  • Abandoning responsibilities
  • Slurred speech
  • Sleeping more or less than normal
  • Mood swings
  • Euphoria (feeling high)
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Lowered motivation
  • Anxiety attacks

Why Do People Become Addicted to Opioids?

Opioids are easy to become addicted to because they create and release endorphins, creating feelings of euphoria. When too many opioids are taken, the brain becomes reliant upon these created endorphins and stops producing its own.

Additionally, your body can develop a tolerance to the medication. This means that it loses the original effect that it had on your body, causing you to have to take a larger dose of the drug to receive the same effect. However, if you stop using opioids for a period of time, your tolerance will lower again. Because of this, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you stop taking an opioid and later need to start up again, because the dosages might change.

What Should I Do if I think I’m Addicted?

If you think that you might be addicted to opioids, there are several resources available where you can find help. If you are concerned, take these steps to get help:

  1. Decide to quit. Recognizing your behavior and committing to quitting is the first step in getting better.
  2. Speak with your doctor. Your doctor or pain specialist can be a great resource in managing your pain and medications. He or she may be able to prescribe a medicine that helps reduce opioid cravings. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a counselor who can help work through the psychological aspects of overcoming addiction.
  3. Join a support group. There are many organizations that help people overcome addiction. It’s also important to have a strong support group at home. Enlist the help and support of your friends and family. Finally, there are pain support groups that can be very helpful in managing painful conditions.

If you suffer from a condition that causes chronic pain, joining a support group can help you to feel better. Visit our Support Groups page to find a support group that’s right for you. It’s free to join.


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