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, and many others.
- NIDA's Role in the NIH HEAL Initiative℠
- Prescription Opioids
- Opioid Research Findings Funded by NIDA
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|Drug||Time Period||8th Graders||10th Graders||12th Graders|
|Narcotics other than Heroin||Past Year||-||-||3.40|
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|Drug||Time Period||Ages 12 or Older||Ages 12 to 17||Ages 18 to 25||Ages 26 or Older|
|Pain Relievers||Past Year||3.60||2.80||5.50||3.40|
Summary of the Issue
All opioids 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 addiction, overdose incidents, and deaths.
An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone when given right away. Improvements have been seen in some regions of the country in the form of decreasing availability of prescription opioid pain relievers and decreasing misuse among the Nation’s teens. However, since 2007, overdose deaths related to heroin have been increasing. Fortunately, effective medications exist to treat opioid use disorders including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.
A NIDA study found that once treatment is initiated, both a buprenorphine/naloxone combination and an extended release naltrexone formulation are similarly effective in treating opioid addiction. However, naltrexone requires full detoxification, so initiating treatment among active users was more difficult. These medications help many people recover from opioid addiction.
- Opioid Overdose Crisis
- Benzodiazepines and Opioids
- Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone
- Opioid Summaries by State
- Prescription Opioids and Heroin
- Misuse of Prescription Drugs
- Medications to Treat Opioid Addiction
- How Naloxone Saves Lives in Opioid Overdose (5:39)
- Treating Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorder and their Newborns (1:23)
- This is NIDA: Opioids (1:03)
- NIH Director Francis Collins on America’s Opioid Crisis (5:08)
- NIDA Director Nora Volkow’s Presentation at the April 2017 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit (31:11)
- FDA launches public education campaign to encourage safe removal of unused opioid pain medicines from homes (FDA, April 2019)
- The Opioid Misuse Community Assessment Tool (NORC)
- Opioid Misuse in Rural America (USDA)
- Opioid Misuse Resource Map (USDA)
- Infographic - How Can USDA Help Address the Opioid Epidemic (USDA)
- FDA grants marketing authorization of the first device for use in helping to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal (FDA, November 2017)
- The Federal Response to the Opioid Crisis - Testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, October 5, 2017 (Senate Web Site)
- Opioid Prescribing (CDC: Vital Signs)
- Fact Sheets: Prescription Opioid Abuse and Heroin Use Epidemic (White House)
- Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit - Updated 2016 (SAMHSA)
- Treatment Improvement Protocol: Medications for Opioid Use Disorders (SAMHSA)
- Clinical Guidance for Treating Pregnant and Parenting Women With Opioid Use Disorder and Their Infants (SAMHSA)
- Opioids and Adolescents (Office of Adolescent Health)
- MEDLINEplus Health Information on Drug Abuse - National Library of Medicine, NIH
- www.abovetheinfluence.com - Office of National Drug Control Policy
- healthfinder.gov - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Past information on many drugs of abuse is available on our Archives site.
Clinical trials are research studies in human volunteers conducted to answer specific health questions. Learn about the NIH-sponsored clinical trials available to you.
- NIDA Clinical Trial Locator - answer a few simple questions and get contact information for Clinical Trials near you.
Other Clinical Trials information sources:
- NIH Clinical Trials and You - NIH site that helps explain about clinical trials and why people participate.
- NIDA Trials at ClinicalTrials.gov - a resource of federally and privately supported clinical trials.
- Clinical Research Studies from the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) - a NIDA coordinated network of research institutions conducting human trials on drug abuse solutions.
- Research Studies at NIDA Intramural Research Program - located in Baltimore, Maryland.
Emerging Trends & Alerts
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Cite this article
NIDA. (). Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids
NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative
New Opioid Overdose Materials for Patients
Safe Disposal of Medicines
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Find information about addiction and mental health services in your area. You can search by state or zip code online or call the number. (SAMHSA)