With their increase in popularity over the past two decades, Opioids are perhaps the most troubling class of drug given their alarming risk of overdose. In fact, Opioids are responsible for over 70,000 deaths in 2017 “Overdose death rates” alone, resulting in a National Public Health Emergency of the same year. Opioids come in a variety of forms; the most commonly consumed are heroin, morphine, and prescription pain killers such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet. It is important to note that many of these drugs when purchased on the street are progressively found to be laced with a synthetic drug called Fentanyl. Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful pain reliever that is usually mixed with heroin or cocaine and is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. “Opioid overdose: fentanyl” Many opioid users are unaware of the presence of Fentanyl, making their regular doses lethal.

Facts about Opioids

  • From 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people have died from a drug overdose
  • On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdosePrescription opioids have effects similar to heroin “Prescription opioid data”
  • A person can overdose on prescription opioids
  • Prescription opioid use, even when used as prescribed by a doctor can lead to a substance use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Withdrawal symptoms include muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea and vomiting, and severe cravings “Prescription opioid data”

How Opioids Affect the Body:

“Opioids are prescribed primarily for pain. They block pain receptors in the brain and release large doses of dopamine throughout the body, the main factor that causes addiction.” – U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opioid addiction”


  • Can cause daytime sedation or sleepiness
  • Chronic use is associated with a higher risk of major depression

Respiratory System

  • Respiratory depression
  • Can slow breathing and result in death

Digestive System

  • Slows digestion which can lead to constipation
  • Nausea and sudden, uncontrollable vomiting for chronic users

Nervous System

  • Slow movement
  • Loss of coordination
  • Chronic use can lead to the development of hyperalgesia:
  • Increased sensitivity to pain

Immune System

  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Can lead to increased susceptibility to infection as they inhibit immune response


Signs of Opioid Dependence

  • Mood changes or swings that range from elated to hostile
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Decreased appetite
  • Borrowing or stealing medication from other people
  • Lying to the doctor about having pain
  • Poor decision making that includes putting oneself in danger
  • Taking opioids in a way that is not intended
  • Taking it for the way it makes the user feel rather than to combat pain
  • Taking more than is prescribed

Note: Opioids have become an epidemic in our society. Many non-drug users find themselves addicted to opioids after being prescribed pain killers after surgery, a broken bone, or chronic pain. One of the most common ways young people start using opioids is by going through the family’s medicine cabinet where there may be left-over prescription pain medication from a parent or relatives’ previous ailment. Opioids can create a sense of euphoria that is powerful and incredibly addictive. When the pills run out, some will turn to heroin to achieve the same sense of euphoria. It is crucial that if you are prescribed pain medication to take it as directed and to properly dispose of it after consulting with your doctor. Below is a list of common prescription pain killers in case you are unsure if the medication in your cabinet is an opioid:

Codeine Oxycodone

  • Percodan
  • Endodan
  • Roxiprin
  • Percocet
  • Endocet
  • Roxicet
  • OxyContin


  • Anexsia
  • Ceta Plus
  • Co-Gesic
  • Dolorex Forte
  • Hycet
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • Maxidone
  • Norco
  • Stagesic
  • Vicodin
  • Zydone


  • Ultram
  • Ultracet
  • Conzip
  • Rybix
  • Ryzolt


  • MS Contin
  • Astramorph
  • Avinza
  • Depodur
  • Duramorph
  • Infumorph
  • Kadian
  • MorphaBond
  • Arymo ER
  • Hydromorphone


  • Actiq
  • Fentora
  • Duragesic
  • Carfentanil



Commonly referred to as “benzos”, benzodiazepines cover a wide variety of medications including Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin and are prescribed to relieve anxiety, depression, muscle spasms, insomnia, and in severe cases, alcohol withdrawal. Most often, psychiatrists will prescribe these drugs for people with an anxiety or panic disorder. They are classified as a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant drug, as they slow down the CNS in order to sedate or slow down brain activity and create a sense of euphoria. For chronic users, the body can quickly develop a dependence for these drugs. The dangers in benzodiazepines comes from the risk overdose or withdrawal, a sudden stop in medication use, which can lead to seizures. Many who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders that are taking these medications are unknowingly at risk of the implications of benzodiazepine addiction, as they are highly prescribed on “take as needed” terms. Users of the drug often use alcohol to intensify the calming effects. As both are depressants, this mixture is incredibly dangerous as it can create an increased risk of seizures.

Facts about Benzodiazepines

How Benzodiazepines Affect the Body


  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired thinking
  • Fatigue
  • Depression and mood swings


  • Slowed heart rate


Signs of Benzodiazepine Dependence:

List of common Benzodiazepines and their brand names:

  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Dalmane (flurazepam)
  • Diastat or Valium (diazepam)
  • Doral (quazepam)
  • Halcion (triazolam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Paxipam (halazepam)
  • ProSom (estazolam)
  • Restoril (temazepam)
  • Serax (oxazepam)
  • Tranxene-SD (clorazepate)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)