In the past, opioids were used only
for short periods for short-term pain or for cancer pain. Many experts now also
use them for longer periods to treat chronic pain. You can take these drugs, which are sometimes called narcotics or opiates, to
reduce pain and increase your functioning. Examples include fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. Heroin is an example of an illegal opioid.
Opioids are strong medicines. They can help you manage pain when you use them the right way. But
if you misuse them, they can cause serious harm and even death. For these reasons, it is important to use them exactly as your doctor prescribes.
You can get addicted to opioids. The risk is higher if you have a history of
substance use. Some people have more problems with opioids, including teenagers, older adults, people who have depression, people who have sleep apnea, and those who take high doses of medicine. Your doctor will monitor you closely for signs of misuse and addiction and to figure out when you
no longer need to take opioids.
Your body gets used to opioids, which may lead to tolerance and physical dependence. These are not the same as addiction.
If you think you may be addicted, talk to your doctor. Signs of addiction include the following:
When you are addicted to painkillers for a long time, withdrawal can be very difficult. But treatment is available to help you through that process.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerRobert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Current as ofJune 5, 2017
Current as of:
June 5, 2017
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
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Last modified on: 8 September 2017