Opioids refers to a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy plant used for their painkilling effects. These substances are highly addictive and include drugs prescribed by medical professionals as well as illicit substances such as heroin.
Medical professionals legally prescribe opioids to treat strong pain. Prescribed opioids can help many patients but carry a risk of dependence. Commonly prescribed opioids include:
Oxycodone (Percocet® or OxyContin®)
Hydrocodone (Vicodin® or Norco®)
Codeine (Tylenol #3® or #4®)
Illicit opioids encompass substances that are not legal, such as heroin and illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, which is several magnitudes more potent than non-synthetic opioids. An increasing proportion of opioid overdose deaths are a result of fentanyl.
Prolonged use of opioids leads to higher tolerance and physical dependence. At low doses, opioids make you feel sleepy. At high doses they can drastically slow your heart rate, which can lead to death.