Opioid Analgesics

Opioid analgesics are opioid-based drugs that are used to prevent pain. They are drugs that, either synthetic or natural, are used to treat pain in patients who have moderate to severe pain issues. These drugs are also often called narcotics.

Opioid analgesics treat pain and must be prescribed by a doctor to patients who need them. According to the DOJ, they come in many different forms including:

  • Tablets
  • Skin patches
  • Capsules
  • Power
  • “Liquid form for oral use and injection”
  • Suppositories
  • Syrups
  • Lollipops

While all of these drugs treat pain in patients with severe pain issues, they can also be abused by those looking for the euphoric high opioid analgesics can produce in high doses. This is why opioid analgesics, while helpful to those in need of pain relief, can be very dangerous as well.

If you abuse opioid analgesics, call 800-821-3880 immediately to find treatment help. 

Are Opioid Analgesics Legal?

Opioid analgesics “are controlled substances that vary from Schedule I to Schedule V” (DOJ). Many opioid analgesics are legal but only when prescribed to a patient by a doctor. However, some opioid analgesic drugs are not legal to use at all. “Schedule I narcotics, like heroin, have no medical use in the U.S. and are illegal to distribute, purchase, or use outside of medical research.”

Heroin and opium are opioid analgesics that are not often used medically (although opium is a Schedule II drug according to the DOJ, meaning that it does have some medicinal purposes still). Most other opioid analgesics can be taken legally with a prescription from a doctor.

Examples of Opioid Analgesics

There are many drugs that fall under the category of opioid analgesics. “The poppy plant, Papaver somniferum, is the source of opium” and it is the source for all opiate-based drugs (DOJ 2). Those which are actually extracted from the poppy plant are called natural opiates and those which are either synthetic or semi-synthetic are called opioids. Opioid is also a blanket term for all three categories.

According to ISATE, some common opioid analgesics include:

Opioid Analgesics

Abusing opioid analgesics is dangerous and can lead to addiction.

  • Codeine
    • Natural opiate
    • Prescription opioid analgesic
    • Used to treat pain and severe cough
  • Oyxcodone
    • Semi-synthetic opioid
    • Prescription opioid analgesic
    • Used to chronic pain
  • Morphine
    • Natural opiate
    • Prescription opioid analgesic
    • Used to treat pain and those who are already tolerant to opioids
  • Fentanyl
    • Synthetic opioid
    • Prescription opioid analgesic
    • Used “as an analgesic in surgical procedures because of its minimal effects on the heart”
  • Heroin
    • Semi-synthetic opioid
    • Illicit opioid
    • Used to get high, very addictive
  • Opium
    • Natural opiate
    • Illicit opioid
    • Used to get high, very addictive, was once highly used in the medical community to treat pain

Opioid analgesics can be very beneficial medications to those who need pain relief around-the-clock. Often, though, doctors will prescribe opioid analgesics on a take-as-needed basis. This is because these drugs can be habit-forming and may lead to many problems, especially if a patient takes them for a long time. Opioids should only be taken as long as the patient needs them, and illegal opioids are likely to cause addiction and other problems when abused.

Side Effects of Opioid Analgesics

Opioid analgesics, like all drugs, do have side effects which can make taking them difficult on the patient. If you experience any side effects that you do not like while taking opioid analgesics, discuss them with your doctor and find out how they can be helped.

Side effects of opioid analgesics include:

  • Constipation and nausea
    • These are the two “most common side effects of opioid usage” (NCBI). They often continue even in patients who take opioid analgesics for a long time.
  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Slowed breathing
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth

As stated by the NLM, “impaired judgement often occur[s] with these medications.” Patients are asked not to drive or drink alcohol when taking these drugs. The latter is also important because severe respiratory depression can occur as a result of the mixing of opioid analgesics and alcohol.

Opioid Agonist

Issues Caused by Opioid Analgesics

Many issues can be caused by taking opioid analgesics. Some people may stick to their doctors’ recommended dosages and do fine. They may need to taper off the drugs after taking them for a while, but otherwise, there are no issues. However, some people start to abuse opioid analgesics after taking them medically, and others start by abusing them to feel the euphoric high they cause.

Some common issues associated with opioid analgesics are:

  • Dependence
    Even people who take opioid analgesics as prescribed may become dependent on them after a while. Someone who is dependent on the drug will “function normally only in the presence of the drug” (NIDA). This can lead to withdrawal if use of the drug is suddenly stopped.
  • Withdrawal
    Withdrawal from opioid analgesics can be painful and uncomfortable. It is not usually life-threatening, and many people (not just addicts) experience it. Tapering off the drug is the best way to ease a person through withdrawal, but it will not curb the symptoms entirely.
  • Tolerance
    Tolerance occurs when someone can no longer get the same effects from the normal dosage of the drug. Therefore, many people start taking more of the drug to feel the effects they want without consulting their doctors. This is a form of drug abuse.
  • Addiction
    Addiction is “a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her.” A person can become addicted to opioid analgesic drugs if he or she is not careful.
  • Overdose
    Overdose can occur if a person takes too much of an opioid analgesic drug, whether accidentally or intentionally. This is often a result of opioid analgesic addiction, and many people die from this outcome, as severe respiratory depression may result causing coma and death.

It is important to remember that, while opioid analgesics are necessary to those with severe and chronic pain, dosage amounts must be followed and only changed by a doctor. Abusing opioid analgesics can lead to one or many of the issues listed above, and the most careful you are with your medication, the lower your chances are of complications.

If you need help quitting opioid analgesic abuse, call 800-821-3880 today to find addiction treatment

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