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Drug & Pain Medication Facts

Prescription opioids can be an effective form of pain management but it is important to understand their potential benefits and risks.

Specific Opioid Drugs

Prescription Opioids

Pain Relievers
Pain relievers are medicines that reduce or relieve headaches, sore muscles, arthritis, or other aches and pains. There are many different pain medicines, and each one has advantages and risks.

Easy-to-Read Site: Rx Drugs
When used correctly under your health care provider's direction, prescription pain medicines are helpful. However, misusing prescription pain medicine can be as dangerous as heroin or cocaine use.

Drug Facts: Prescription & OTC Medications
People often think that prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are safer than illicit drugs, but that's only true when they are taken exactly as prescribed and for the purpose intended. When abused, they can be addictive and put abusers at risk for other adverse health effects, including overdose.

Prescription Drugs & Cold Medicines
Prescription and OTC drugs are, after marijuana (and alcohol), the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older. Learn about OTC and prescription drug abuse.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery.

CDER Conversation: Pediatric pain management options
To manage pain in pediatric patients, physicians often have to rely on their own experience to interpret and translate adult data into dosing information for pediatric patients. However, the manufacturer of the pain management drug OxyContin conducted a study to obtain pediatric-specific information on the safe use of drugs in pediatric patients.


Get the basics on heroin, including symptoms of use disorder and links to treatments and therapies.

Easy-to-Read Site: Heroin
Get the facts on heroin, including what it looks like, how it is used, and its common street names.

Drug Facts: Heroin
Heroin is an opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance, known as “black tar heroin.”

Letter from the Director: Heroin
Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug, and its use has repercussions that extend far beyond the individual user. The medical and social consequences of drug use—such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, fetal effects, crime, violence, and disruptions in family, workplace, and educational environments—have a devastating impact on society and cost billions of dollars each year.

Pain Management

How to Manage Your Pain Safely and Effectively
There are ways to manage pain safely and effectively. Talk to your health care provider about ways to manage your pain that do not involve prescription drugs.

Director's Blog: Opioids and Chronic PainA Gap in Our Knowledge
Chronic pain now affects more than a third of Americans. Growing evidence suggests that long-term treatment with opioids may induce hyperalgesia, an increase in pain sensitivity as a result of the chronic administration of opioid medications, at least in some patients.

Opioid Facts for Kids & Teens

Fact Sheet on Opioids for Teens
Learn what opioids are, how they affect your body and brain, and where to go for help.

Mind Over Matter Series/Booklet for Middle Schoolers on Opioids
If someone uses opioids again and again, his or her brain is likely to become dependent on them. Misusing opioids can negatively affect your body.

Mind Over Matter Series/Booklet for Middle Schoolers on Rx Drugs
Taking a prescription drug without a doctor's prescription or in a way or amount that is different from what is prescribed is misuse. Misusing prescription drugs can be harmful to your health.

Opioid Facts for Health Care Providers

Safe Prescribing Tools for Health Care Providers
Improving the way opioids are prescribed can promote safe, effective treatment while reducing opioid-related abuse and overdose. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Injury Center is developing evidence-based guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)
Content last reviewed on December 10, 2015