Opioid Addiction | Overview

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Read More About Opioid Addiction

Prescription Drug Abuse in the Elderly

What are opioids?

Opioids (say: “oh-pee-oyds”) are a type of medicine often used to help relieve pain. They work by lowering the number of pain signals your body sends to your brain and by changing how your brain responds to pain. Doctors most often prescribe opioids to relieve pain from toothaches and dental procedures, injuries, surgeries, and chronic conditions such as cancer. Some prescription cough medicines also contain opioids.

Opioids usually are safe when they are used correctly, but people who misuse opioids can become addicted. Misusing opioids means that you don’t follow your doctor’s instructions for how to take the medicine, or you take the drug illegally.

What is addiction?

Addiction is a disease that affects your brain and your behavior. At first, you have control over your choice to start using drugs. If you misuse a drug, its pleasurable effect eventually makes you want to keep using it. Over time, your brain actually changes in certain ways so that a powerful urge to use the drug controls your behavior.

Opioid drugs include:

  • opium
  • codeine
  • fentanyl
  • heroin
  • hydrocodone
  • hydromorphone
  • methadone
  • morphine
  • oxycodone
  • oxymorphone
  • paregoric
  • sufentanil
  • tramadol

Bibliography

See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 01/11
Created: 07/06

Read More About Opioid Addiction

Prescription Drug Abuse in the Elderly

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Link to information about the Medicine Abuse Project