Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.
Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids are made from the plant directly, and others are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure.
- If you take a medicine in a way that is different from what the doctor prescribed, it is called prescription drug misuse.
- Prescription opioid use, even when used as prescribed by a doctor can lead to a substance use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases.
- Research Report: Prescription Drug Misuse
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. In its prescription form it is prescribed for pain, but fentanyl is also made illegally.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug made from morphine, which comes from opium poppy plants. Some prescription opioid pain medicines have effects similar to heroin. Research suggests that misuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin use.
Understanding Drug Misuse, Addiction, and Overdose
When used correctly under a health care provider's direction, prescription pain medicines are helpful. However, misusing prescription opioids risks dependence, addiction, and overdose.
The best ways to prevent opioid overdose deaths are to improve safe opioid prescribing, reduce exposure to opioids, prevent misuse, and treat opioid use disorder.