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Commonly Used Terms

  • Acute Pain – Pain that usually starts suddenly and has a known cause, like an injury or surgery. It normally gets better as your body heals and lasts less than three months.
  • Benzodiazepines – Sometimes called “benzos,” these are sedatives often used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions. Combining benzodiazepines with opioids increases a person’s risk of overdose and death.
  • Chronic pain – Pain that lasts 3 months or more and can be caused by a disease or condition, injury, medical treatment, inflammation, or even an unknown reason.
  • Drug misuse – The use of prescription drugs without a prescription or in a manner other than as directed by a doctor, including use without a prescription of one’s own; use in greater amounts, more often, or longer than told to take a drug; or use in any other way not directed by a doctor.
  • Drug abuse or addiction – Dependence on a legal or illegal drug or medication. See Opioid use disorder.
  • Extended-release/long-acting (ER/LA) opioids – Slower-acting medication with a longer duration of pain-relieving action.
  • Fentanyl – Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain medication, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. However, illegally made fentanyl is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect, and it is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product.
  • Heroin – An illegal, highly addictive opioid drug processed from morphine.
  • Illicit drugs – The non-medical use of a variety of drugs that are prohibited by law. These drugs can include: amphetamine- type stimulants, marijuana/cannabis, cocaine, heroin and other opioids, synthetic drugs, and MDMA (ecstasy).
  • Immediate-release opioids – Faster-acting medication with a shorter duration of pain-relieving action.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – Treatment for opioid use disorder combining the use of medications (methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone) with counseling and behavioral therapies.
  • Morphine milligram equivalents (MME) – The amount of milligrams of morphine an opioid dose is equal to when prescribed. This is how to calculate the total amount of opioids, accounting for differences in opioid drug type and strength.
  • Naloxone – A prescription drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and can be life-saving if administered in time. The drug is sold under the brand name Narcan or Evzio.
  • Nonmedical use – Taking drugs, whether obtained by prescription or otherwise, not in the way, for the reasons, or during the time period prescribed. Or the use of prescription drugs by a person for whom the drug was not prescribed.
  • Non-opioid therapy – Methods of managing chronic pain that does not involve opioids. These methods can include, but are not limited to, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®), cognitive behavioral therapy, physical therapy and exercise, medications for depression or for seizures, or interventional therapies (injections).
  • Non-pharmacologic therapy – Treatments that do not involve medications, including physical treatments (e.g., exercise therapy, weight loss) and behavioral treatments (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy).
  • Opioid – Natural or synthetic chemicals that interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain, and reduce the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain. This class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain medications available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others. Opioid pain medications 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.
  • Opioid analgesics – Commonly referred to as prescription opioids, medications that have been used to treat moderate to severe pain in some patients. Categories of opioids for mortality data include:
    • Natural opioid analgesics, including morphine and codeine;
    • Semi-synthetic opioid analgesics, including drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone;
    • Methadone, a synthetic opioid;
    • Synthetic opioid analgesics other than methadone, including drugs such as tramadol and fentanyl.
  • Opioid use disorder – A problematic pattern of opioid use that causes significant impairment or distress. A diagnosis is based on specific criteria such as unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use, or use resulting in social problems and a failure to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home, among other criteria. Opioid use disorder has also been referred to as “opioid abuse or dependence” or “opioid addiction.”
  • Overdose – Injury to the body (poisoning) that happens when a drug is taken in excessive amounts. An overdose can be fatal or nonfatal.
  • Physical dependence – Adaptation to a drug that produces symptoms of withdrawal when the drug is stopped.
  • Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) – State-run electronic databases that track controlled substance prescriptions. PDMPs help providers identify patients at risk of opioid misuse, abuse and/or overdose due to overlapping prescriptions, high dosages, or co-prescribing of opioids with benzodiazepines.
  • Tolerance – Reduced response to a drug with repeated use.