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Opioid Basics

Opioids are a class of drugs used to reduce pain.

Prescription opioids can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but can also have serious risks and side effects.

Common types are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than other opioids and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain.1 Illegally made and distributed fentanyl has been on the rise in several states.

Heroin is an illegal opioid. Heroin use has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.2

The number of drug overdose deaths remain high, and the majority of these deaths, almost 70% in 2018, involved opioids.3


    1. Algren D, Monteilh C, Rubin C, et al. Fentanyl-associated fatalities among illicit drug users in Wayne County, Michigan (July 2005-May 2006). Journal Of Medical Toxicology: Official Journal of the American College Of Medical Toxicology [serial online]. March 2013; 9(1):106-115.
    2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Today’s Heroin Epidemic – United States, 2012. MMWR 2015; 64(26);719-725.
    3. Wilson N, Kariisa M, Seth P, et al. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths—United States, 2017-2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:290-297.






Access the latest data. Learn what can be done about overdoseand related harms. CDC VitalSigns
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Prescription opioids can be addictive and dangerous. Prescribed. Addicted. Lost job. Lost home. Overdosed. Prescription opioids: it only takes a little to lose a lot. Learn more