What are opioids?

Street names: M, morph, (for morphine); meth (for methadone); percs (for Percodan, Percocet); juice (for Dilaudid); oxy, OC, hillbilly heroin (for OxyContin).

Opioids are a family of drugs that have morphine-like effects. The primary medical use for prescription opioids is to relieve pain. Other medical uses include control of coughs and diarrhea, and the treatment of addiction to other opioids. Opioids can also produce euphoria, making them prone to abuse. Some people use opioids for their ability to produce a mellow, relaxed “high.”

Federal laws regulate the possession and distribution of all opioids. Use of prescription opioids is legal only when they are prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner, and are used by the person to whom they are prescribed. Illegal use includes “double doctoring,” or obtaining a prescription from more than one doctor without telling the prescribing doctor about other prescriptions received in the past 30 days. Penalties for the illegal possession and distribution of prescription opioids include fines, imprisonment or both.

Where do opioids come from?

Some opioids, such as morphine and codeine, occur naturally in opium, a gummy substance collected from the seed pod of the opium poppy, which grows in southern Asia. Semi-synthetic opioids, such as oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin), hydromorphone (e.g., Dilaudid) or hydrocodone (e.g., Tussionex) are made by changing the chemical structure of naturally occurring opioids. Synthetic opioids, such as methadone, meperidine (e.g., Demerol) and fentanyl (Duragesic Patch), are made from chemicals without using a naturally occurring opioid as a starting material.

Click here to read more from the CAMH website.

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Author: wrcpi

Waterloo Region Chronic Pain Initiative