Get the Facts 2017-01-20T10:12:29+00:00

How Opioids Work

Opioid drugs work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and other areas of the body. They reduce the sending of pain messages to the brain and reduce the feelings of pain.

Opioid based medications are used to treat moderate to severe pain that may not respond well to other pain medications.

Some common types of opioid drugs
include (retail drug name):

  • Codeine
  • Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet)
  • Oxycodone and naloxone (Targiniq ER)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxecta, Roxicodone)
  • Morphine (Astramorph, Avina, Kadian, MS Contin)
  • Hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco)
  • Hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)

  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora)

The Effects of Opiates on the Body


  • Opiate painkillers can cause daytime sedation or sleepiness.

  • Chronic painkiller use is associated with a higher risk of major depression.

Respiratory System

  • Opiates can cause respiratory depression, which can slow breathing and result in death.

Digestive System

  • Opiate-induced slow digestion can lead to constipation.

  • Opioid painkiller abuse can lead to nausea and vomiting.

Nervous System

  • Opioid-induced hyperalgesia can cause greater pain and sensitization.

  • Opioids can cause psychomotor impairment, which is a slowing of physical movement.

Immune System

  • Opioid painkillers can inhibit immune response, leading to increased susceptibility to infection.


  • Liver damage can occur due to acetaminophen in prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet.

Effects of Injecting Opiates

  • Injecting heroin or crushed pills can lead to septic pulmonary embolism, interstitial lung disease, as well as tuberculosis infection.

  • Hepatitis C can spread via shared needles.

  • Chronic heroin or crushed-pill injection can cause veins to collapse.

  • Injection of heroin can lead to endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s lining due to contaminants.

  • Injecting heroin with shared needles increases the risk of contracting HIV.

  • Contaminants in heroin can clog blood vessels throughout the body, causing organ damage.

Images sourced from the National Safety Council and

Deadliest Drug Epidemic on Record – Read the Full Article
Americans are at Greater Risk – Read the Full Article
The Transition to Heroin – Read the Full Article
The Effects of Opiates on Your Body – Read the Full Article


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