What are opioids?
Prescription drugs have many different classifications. Opioids, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, heroin and codeine, are a class of drug that interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to induce euphoria and relieve pain.
A full list of opioid medications can be found here.
Are opioids addictive?
All opioids, regardless of how they are obtained and what they are used for, can be addictive. Those with a personal or family history of substance misuse may be at a higher risk of addiction.
Why are opioids particularly dangerous?
Aside from being addictive, the chronic use of opioids can lead to physical dependence and development of tolerance, which is a natural response to medication. When misused, however, opioids can cause drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, bloating, constipation, liver damage, and in some cases, brain damage caused by slowed breathing.
If my doctor prescribes them for me, shouldn’t my prescription drugs be safe for others?
No, prescription drugs, when used appropriately, can be helpful in relieving pain. However, prescription drug misuse and their subsequent side effects can be worse than the original injury the drugs were prescribed for.
Your doctor took many factors, such as age, weight, gender and medical history, into consideration when prescribing your specific medicine and dosage. Just because it helps you does not mean it is the right prescription for a friend, neighbor or teammate. Encourage them to see a physician instead.
What are the risks of overusing opioids?
Opioid overuse can cause depressed respiration (slowed breathing), which can cause permanent brain damage or death. Studies have shown opioid use can deteriorate white matter in the brain, which affects decision-making capabilities, among other side effects.
While the effects of opioids in particular are dangerous, there are dangers with any type of prescription drug, and they should be used only as directed.
What can I do to make sure my prescription opioids stay safe?
- Store them in a secure and dry place. Invest in a home lock box.
- Do not leave your medicine out on a counter or in plain view. This makes them easy to steal.
- Count your pills regularly to check for missing medication.
- Never share your medications.
- Don’t discuss your medications with others.
- Discussing your prescriptions around people can make you an easy target for someone looking to get pain medicine. Your medicine is your business.
- Dispose of your unused medications.
- Check out our drop box locations page to find a drop box nearest you. Disposing of pills in this manner ensures for a safe and secure disposal, preventing medicine from falling in the wrong hands.
Who can I reach out to if I or someone I know is struggling with opioid misuse?
There are many different national and local hotlines that can provide more information. Visit our resources page for a full list.
What do I do if I or someone I know is experiencing a side effect from taking an opioid?
Call your local physician and discuss it with them, especially if they prescribed you the medication. If you or someone you know is experiencing a severe side effect, such as slowed breathing or confusion, call 911 or visit your local emergency room as soon as possible.