Opioids are a kind of drug used to reduce pain. There are many different kinds of opioids, and they can be bought both legally and illegally. Opioids include both prescription pain killers and heroin, and both share the same chemical composition as the opium poppy plant.

What are some common opioids?

  • Codeine (Robitussin)
  • Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Abstral, Onsolis)
  • Hydrocodone (Hysingla, Zohydro ER)
  • Vicodin
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Percocet
  • Heroin

Opioids can take many forms, and you may have some in your medicine cabinet right now.

What forms can opioids take?

Opioids can be liquids, such as certain cough syrups.

Opioids can come in pill form, like prescription pain killers.

Opioids can be injected in a syringe, like heroin.

cough syrup

What’s the difference between prescription pain killers and heroin?

As far as your brain is concerned, they’re the same. Opioids block certain receptors in your brain to keep your body from feeling pain. Both prescription opioids and heroin can lead to addiction within just five days of use. Many people using opioids began with a normal prescription from their doctor.

What causes opioid addiction?

Anyone can develop opioid addiction, or opioid use disorder, even if they do not have a history of substance use. When someone takes opioids, their body starts to want more and requires increased amounts to feel the same effect. Not taking more can cause withdrawal, including severe pain. While opioids withdrawal is not deadly, it can feel so terrible that you seek out more of the drug to make the feeling go away.

What are the signs of opioid use?

Opioid addiction can happen to anyone, and you may not be able to tell if someone you know is misusing opioids such as prescription pain killers. However, if they are showing symptoms, some signs may include:

  • Appearing depressed
  • Disorientation
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Changes in sleep schedule
  • Decreased decision making ability or motivation

How can opioid use disorder be treated?

There are many treatment options for people living with addiction to prescription pain killers or heroin, also called opioid use disorder. The most effective treatments include both medication and counseling to support people who use opioids through their recovery.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a proven treatment for opioid use disorder that significantly reduces the rate of relapse. It includes prescription medication, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. Covered by Medi-Cal, Medicare and many private insurance plans, Family Health Centers of San Diego offers MAT multiple locations.