What’s an Opioid?

You’ve likely heard a lot about the opioid crisis and might be wondering which drugs are classified as opioids, why there is a crisis, and why you should be worried about it.

What are opioids and how do they work?

If you’ve had surgery or experienced chronic or severe pain, you may have been prescribed opioids. Opioids work by traveling through your blood and attaching to the opioid receptors in your brain. Once attached to the brain, the brain cells release signals that limit your perception of pain and increase the feelings of pleasure. While this is an effective treatment for pain relief, left unchecked, this is also part of what makes opioids so dangerous. 

The feelings of pleasure that result from opioids might make you want to continue taking opioids long after your prescription is gone. This is particularly dangerous, as dosing should be closely monitored and controlled by your physician. Low doses of opioids can make you feel lethargic and sleepy, while higher doses can slow breathing and heart rate, which can lead to death. 

Chasing the pleasure falsely created by opioids can lead to misuse and addiction. Misuse means you aren’t taking the drugs according to your physician’s instructions and are using them to get high, or even supplementing your dosage by taking someone else’s opioids. Even regular use as prescribed by your doctor can lead to dependence or overdose incidents.

Other Brand Names for Opioids

How do you know if you’ve been prescribed opioids?  Opioids have many variations and names, but no matter the name, they should be taken with caution, for a short time, and as directed. Below are some common names associated with opioids:

















In addition to potential addiction or misuse, it’s important to be aware of further side effects

Possible side effects include, but are not limited to:

  • Constipation
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea

Most importantly, some opioid side effects can be lethal. These following symptoms might indicate an overdose and would require immediate medical attention.

  • Slowed heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Despite the risks, opioids are very effective at relieving pain. You can limit your risk of potentially dangerous side effects and addiction by following your doctor’s instructions carefully and taking your medication exactly as prescribed. Please be sure your physician knows all of the other prescriptions or supplements you are currently taking. And of course, if you feel you need help, reach out to your physician or local clinic.

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