Opioids are a class of drug that includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. These drugs are chemically similar and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain.
Heroin is made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Street names for heroin include big H, horse, and smack. People inject, snort, or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with cocaine, a practice called speedballing.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. In its prescription form, fentanyl (Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®) is typically used to treat patients with severe cancer pain or to manage pain during and after surgery. However, the fentanyl that is responsible for the rapid rise in overdoses is illicitly manufactured (most often in laboratories in China) and often found mixed with or substituted for heroin, or in counterfeit prescription pills that mimic other, less potent opioids.
How are they used?
Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short period of time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, opioids are sometimes misused. When misused