Opiates cover a huge variety of drugs, ranging from prescription drugs such as fentanyl, codeine, and morphine which are available legally by prescription under names such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), morphine, and many others. Opioids also include illegal drugs such as heroin and opium.
These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths.
If you or someone close to you needs help for a substance use disorder, talk to your doctor or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.