What is an opioid?
Opioids are a group of medications that are commonly prescribed to treat pain.
In combination with pain relief, opioids can also produce a high which keeps users relaxed, while elevating their overall levels of contentment; a combination which may give people using them an increased potential for improper use. Opioids can be prescribed legally by medical professionals, but they are also sold illicitly on the black market.
Short term effects
- Impotence in men
- Nausea and vomiting
- Euphoria (feeling high)
- Difficulty breathing, which can lead to or worsen sleep apnea
- Headaches, dizziness and confusion, which can cause falls and fractures
Long term effects
- Increased tolerance
- Substance use disorder or physical dependence
- Liver damage
- Infertility in women
- Worsening pain (known as “opioid-induced hyperalgesia”)
- Withdrawal symptoms
Note: even when prescribed to treat a specific condition or pain, there are serious side effects and risks to using opioids.
Symptoms may include:
- Slow or no breathing
- Changes in skin colour
- Deep snoring or gurgling
Opioid overdoses can be countered with opioid antagonists (antagonists are substances that stop the physiological effects of another substance). Opioid antagonists, such as naloxone, work by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids attach to, effectively preventing the opioid from attaching and working on the receptor, which results in reversing the symptoms and effects from the overdose. It is recommended that even after medications like naloxone have been administered, that those suffering from a suspected overdose seek immediate medical attention, as opioids can live in the body longer than naloxone.