Opioid Basics

What are opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs used to reduce pain. There are three types of opioids:

  • Prescription opioids come from doctors. They are used to treat severe pain. Common names are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine and methadone.
  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. That means scientists make this drug in a lab. It is many times more powerful than other opioids. That is why doctors often give this to people with severe cancer pain. Experts see more and more misuse of this opioid.
  • Heroin is an illegal opioid. Doctors cannot give it to patients. It is the most common cause of opioid overdose death.

Opioids can become addictive. Only take opioids as prescribed by your doctor. Ask your doctor if you can take a less addictive pain medicine instead.

What is the opioid situation in the U.S.?

Opioid misuse is a major problem in the U.S. In fact, experts call this an opioid epidemic. An epidemic is when many people in the same place get the same disease in a short amount of time. Experts refer to the opioid epidemic as “the opioid crisis.”

The Opioid Crisis

Each year experts measure the impact of drugs. They measure the impact by counting the number of people who die from drugs. This number is the total drug overdose deaths. Opioids cause most of these deaths:

More Resources

Want to learn how to protect yourself and your community from opioid misuse? UGA experts are here to help.

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Learn more about opioids from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the World Health Organization (WHO)