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Opioid Basics

Opioid Drugs

Opioids are a class of drugs used to reduce pain.

Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioids can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but can also have serious risks and side effects.

Common types are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone.



Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than other opioids and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain.1 Illegally made and distributed fentanyl has been on the rise in several states.



Heroin is an illegal opioid. Heroin use has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.2


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Understanding the Epidemic

From 1999 to 2015, the amount of prescription opioids dispensed in the U.S. nearly quadrupled.

The number of drug overdose deaths has never been higher, and the majority of these deaths (more than six out of ten in 2015) involved opioids.2


Commonly Used Terms



  1. Algren D, Monteilh C, Rubin C, et al. Fentanyl-associated fatalities among illicit drug users in Wayne County, Michigan (July 2005-May 2006). Journal Of Medical Toxicology: Official Journal of the American College Of Medical Toxicology [serial online]. March 2013; 9(1):106-115.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010-2015. MMWR 2016.