Opioids are very strong painkillers.
People who misuse or abuse these drugs can easily become addicted to them. Opioid medicines include drugs such as codeine, morphine (MS-Contin®), hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), oxycodone (OxyNeo®), fentanyl (Duragesic®) and meperidine (Demerol®). Heroin is also an opioid but isn't used medically and can’t be bought legally. Some opioids, such as codeine and oxycodone, can be combined with drugs like Aspirin® (ASA) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to increase pain relief.
Opioids can be used in tablet form, injected, snorted, or smoked.
You can be fined or go to jail for carrying opioids without a prescription, prescription shopping, and making or selling opioids. Prescription shopping is getting prescriptions for opioids without telling the doctor you had another prescription for opioids in the last 30 days.
Low doses of opioids can affect your driving. Higher doses can lower your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Very high doses can cause disorientation, convulsions, and hallucinations. An overdose can result in coma and death. Taking opioids with alcohol or other drugs like antidepressants, or sleeping pills is also very dangerous.
If you use a lot of opioids, you may find that you need more and more to feel the same effects (tolerance). You can become mentally and physically dependent, or addicted to how they make you feel.
Mild withdrawal symptoms usually start between 12 and 30 hours after the last time the drug was taken. While the worst symptoms pass within a few days, it can take months to feel normal. Withdrawal can be painful so it's best to stop using under supervised care. Healthcare professionals can help you withdraw safely.
If you have an addiction to alcohol or any other drug, you should only take opioids under medical supervision.
For more information and to find an addiction services office near you, please call the
24-hour Help Line.
Current as of: April 17, 2017
Author: Poison & Drug Information Service, Alberta Health Services
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