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NIDA

Opioids

Brief Description

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin as well as powerful pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and many others. 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 they are frequently misused (taken in a different way or in a greater quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription) because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief. Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can produce dependence, and when misused or abused, opioid pain relievers can lead to fatal overdose. The current epidemic of prescription opioid abuse has led to increased use of heroin, which presents similar dangers.

Also more about:

  • Naloxone - a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose

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Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs for 8th Graders, 10th Graders, and 12th Graders; 2015 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period 8th Graders 10th Graders 12th Graders
Heroin Past Year [0.30] 0.50 0.50
Narcotics other than Heroin Past Year - - 5.40
Vicodin Past Year 0.90 2.50 4.40
OxyContin Past Year 0.80 2.60 3.70

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National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs for Ages 12 or Older, Ages 12 to 17, Ages 18 to 25, and Ages 26 or Older; 2015 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period Ages 12 or Older Ages 12 to 17 Ages 18 to 25 Ages 26 or Older
Heroin Past Year 0.30 0.10 0.60 0.30
Pain Relievers Past Year 4.70 3.90 8.50 4.10

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Past information on many drugs of abuse is available on our Archives site.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies in human volunteers conducted to answer specific health questions. Learn about the NIH-sponsored clinical trials available to you.

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This page was last updated May 2016

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    NIDA (). Opioids. Retrieved , from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids

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    Prescribing Guideline for Opioids for Chronic Pain

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