Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, to mention a few.
Prescription pain medicines are helpful, when used correctly under a health care provider’s direction, that is. However, misuse of prescription opioids risks dependence and addiction.
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. Repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.
Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. In fact, as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction. Once addicted, it can be hard to stop. Taking too many prescription opioids can stop a person’s breathing—leading to death.
Medical professionals play a key role in facilitating the proper use of opioids. Opioid prescribers can play a key role in stopping the opioid overdose epidemic. Assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use can save lives.
With our Opioids: Improving and Promoting Safe Prescription course, you will learn the following:
What are opioids?
What is drug addiction?
Naloxone: The Opioid Reversal Drug that Saves Lives