What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals that reach the brain. Opioids affect brain centers that control emotion, which can diminish the effects of a painful stimulus. Opioid medications include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and related drugs. Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine is often prescribed for mild pain. Codeine can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea.
Opioid *Brand | Street Names
Opioids are painkillers such as morphine, methadone, Buprenorphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and heroin which is illegal.
Opioid drugs are sold under the brand names:
- *Actiq | Apache
- *Demerol | Monkey, White Stuff, Demmies
- *Dilaudid | Friend, Jackpot, TNT, Oxy 80, Oxycat
- *Duragesic | China girl
- *Duramorph | Miss Emma
- *Empirin with Codeine | Pancakes & Syrup
- *Fiorional with Codeine | Cody, Captain Cody
- *OxyContin | Goodfella
- *Percocet | Tango and Cash
- *Robitussin A-C | Schoolboy
- *Roxanol | M
- *Percodan | Murder 8
- *Sublimaze | Dance fever
- *Tylenol with Codeine | Doors & Fours
- *Tylox | China white
The Effects of Opioids on the Brain and Body
Opioids attach to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When opioids attach to these receptors, they reduce the perception of pain. Opioids can produce drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and, depending upon the amount of the drug taken, opioids can depress respiration. Some people experience a euphoric response to opioid medications, since these drugs also affect the brain regions involved in reward.
People who abuse opioids may seek to intensify their experience by taking the drug in ways that are not prescribed. For example, OxyContin is an oral medication used to treat moderate to severe pain through a slow, steady release of the opioid. People who abuse OxyContin may snort or inject it, increasing the risk for serious medical complications, including overdose.
Opioid Dependence and Addiction
Physical dependence occurs because of normal adaptations to chronic exposure to a drug and is not the same as addiction. Addiction, which can include physical dependence, is distinguished by compulsive drug seeking and use despite sometimes devastating consequences.
Someone who is physically dependent on a medication will experience withdrawal symptoms when use of the drug is abruptly reduced or stopped. These symptoms can be mild or severe (depending on the drug) and can usually be managed medically or avoided by using a slow drug taper.
Opioid overdose can cause depressed respiration (slowed breathing) which can affect the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma and permanent brain damage.
Opioids should only be used with other drugs under the supervision of a physician. Typically, opioids should not be used with other substances that depress the CNS, such as alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or general anesthetics, because these combinations increase the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression.
Short-term effects of opioids and morphine derivatives include:
- Slowed breathing
Continued use or abuse of opioids can result in physical dependence and addiction. The body adapts to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced or stopped. These include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”). Tolerance can also occur, meaning that long-term users must increase their doses to achieve the same high.