All About Opioids

Opioids, also termed as opiates or narcotics, are a class of drugs derived and synthesized from the opioid poppy plant. They activate opioid receptors, which blocks pain signals from the body by releasing high levels of endorphins. In medicine, they are used to relieve pain, while others take opioids because of the “high” they give to the user. Symptoms of opioid use include a feeling of euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and slowed breathing. Opioids can be given as prescriptions by physicians for post-surgical, disease, or trauma related pain relief. However, opioids are also manufactured illegally and can be found on the streets, classified as an illicit substance, such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, or laced in other drugs and pills.

What is opioid use disorder?

Due to their potency, opioids can build a high tolerance extremely fast, leading to a physical and psychological dependence on to feel the same sensation that was felt once before with a smaller dose. Opioid use disorder is defined as “the chronic use of opioids that causes clinically significant distress or impairment.” It can affect both people who take opioids as a prescription and those who purchase them illicitly. 

Important signs and symptoms of opioid use disorder include drug seeking behavior, legal or social consequences related to opioid use, increased opioid usage over time, and withdrawal symptoms present when stopping opioid usage.

According to the DSM, there are a set of 11 criteria used for classifying opioid use disorder; only two of these criteria need to be met in order to classify it as opioid use disorder.


  • Continued use despite worsening physical or psychological health
  • Continued use leading to social or recreational activities
  • Difficulty fulfilling professional duties as school or work
  • Excessive time to obtain opioids, or recover from taking them
  • More taken than intended
  • The individual has cravings
  • The individual is unable to decrease the amount used
  • Tolerance
  • Using despite it being physically dangerous settings
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Live Statistics

Interested in viewing statistics or a database related to opioid use and opioid overdose deaths? Check out these sources below!

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