Prescription opioids usually come in pill or liquid form and are given to treat severe pain; if you are in the hospital, they can be given through an IV (needle and tube) in your arm. Opioids are sometimes prescribed to treat pain that lasts a long time (chronic pain), but it is unclear if they are effective for long-term pain.

When opioids are taken as a medical professional prescribes for a short time, they can be relatively safe and can reduce pain effectively. Yet, taking prescription opioids puts you at risk for dependence and addiction (dependence means you feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug). Continued opioid use can lead to addiction, where you continue to seek out the drug and use it despite the negative consequences. These risks increase when the opioid medications are misused.

Fentanyl is a common opioid, and it is a powerful synthetic (human-made) opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is prescribed for extreme pain. It is extremely dangerous if misused and is sometimes added to illicit drugs sold by drug dealers.

Common Opioid Names

  • Hydrocodone
  • Brand names such as Vicodin, Lorcet and Vicoprofen
  • Street names such as Hydro, Norco and Vikes

How Prescription Opioids Are Misused

  • Taking someone else’s prescription, even if it is for a medical reason like relieving pain.
  • Taking an opioid medication in a way other than prescribed — for instance, taking more than the prescribed dose or taking it more often, or crushing pills into powder to snort or inject the drug.
  • Taking the opioid prescription to get “high.”
  • Mixing it with alcohol or certain other drugs. Your pharmacist can tell you what other drugs are safe to use with prescription pain relievers.

Signs of Overdose

  • Slow breathing
  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • Cold damp skin
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting or gurgling noise
  • Looking like you have passed out – or with a nodding head, going in and out of consciousness

Those showing symptoms of overdose need urgent medical help (call 911 immediately). A drug called naloxone can be given to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and prevent death — but only if it is given in time and correctly. Naloxone is available as an easy-to-use nasal spray called Nasal Narcan. It is often carried by emergency first responders.

Partnership Carson City provides free, convenient naloxone trainings and the product; contact us to find out more about the next training.

(Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)


Prescription opioids are medications that are chemically similar to endorphins opioids that our body makes naturally to relieve pain. They are also similar to the illegal drug heroin.