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.
These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription).
Regular use (even as prescribed by a doctor) can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths. An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone when given right away.
Fortunately, effective medications exist to treat opioid use disorders: buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These medications could help many people recover from opioid addiction.
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