Opioids are a class of drugs that includes common prescription painkillers like hydrocodone (Vicodin®), oxycodone (OxyContin©, Percocet®), oxymorphone (Opana®), morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®), codeine and fentanyl. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused. Regular use, even as prescribed by a doctor, can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to addiction, overdose incidents, and deaths.
Opioid misuse or abuse can cause slowed breathing, which can lead to insufficient oxygen reaching the brain. This can result in a coma, permanent brain damage or death. According to the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), research indicates that several risk factors make people particularly vulnerable to prescription opioid abuse and overdose, including:
- Obtaining overlapping prescriptions from multiple providers and pharmacies
- Taking high daily dosages of prescription pain relievers
- Having mental illness or a history of alcohol or other substance abuse
- Living in rural areas and having low income
People who use prescription opioids may feel relaxed, happy and euphoric, but may also experience drowsiness, confusion, nausea, constipation, and slowed breathing.
The Illinois State Dental Society and American Dental Association have actively been involved in combatting the opioid crisis by keeping dentists informed on how the drugs they prescribe in their offices can be harmful, and what effective, non-opioid pain analgesics are recommended for pain management in dental patients. Here are some useful resources on opioids: