General Information and Dangers

What are opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the body’s opioid receptors including natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic opioids. Doctors prescribe them, typically in pill form, to help patients with severe or chronic pain. Opioids are a highly addictive substance, and the risk of addition increases greatly with repeated use.

Who is at risk for addiction?

It is important to remember that the medication itself is addictive. Even someone who takes opioids as prescribed by a doctor can develop a physical dependence on the drug, especially if prescribed for several weeks or more.

When someone who has become dependent on an opioid stops using it, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms including restlessness, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, anger, depression, muscle or bone pain, nausea and more. Therefore, the risk of addiction should be weighed against the benefits of the medication and any concerns should be discussed with your doctor.

What is prescription opioid abuse?

  • Taking prescription opioids in a way that was not prescribed, such as taking too many pills at one time, combining pills with alcohol or other drugs, or crushing pills into powder to snort or inject them.
  • Taking someone else’s prescription opioid, even if you’re doing so for the medication’s intended purpose, to ease pain.
  • Taking prescription opioids for the sole purpose of feeling good or getting high.

Repeated misuse of opioids can lead to addiction and even death.

What are the dangers of opioids?

Taking just one dose too large can cause serious health problems and potentially lead to addiction and even death. Here’s a dose of reality: In 2019, an estimated 10.1 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the past year.

In 2020, nearly 92,000 people died from drug overdoses, according to CDC data. Of those deaths, nearly 75 percent (nearly 69,000) involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

These numbers have put drug overdoses as the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, all drug overdose deaths in Georgia increased by 55.9 percent from 2019 to 2021. Opioids, specifically fentanyl, appear to be driving these increases. During this same time period, fentanyl-involved overdose deaths increased by 218.4 percent.

Read the Department of Public Health’s latest Opioid Overdose Surveillance Report here which details the breakdown of this behavior in Georgia.

Common Prescription Opioids

Oxycodone Brand Names: OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®
Hydrocodone Brand Names: Vicodin®, Lortab®, Lorcet®
Diphenoxylate Brand Names: Lomotil®
Morphine Brand Names: Kadian®, Avinza®, MS Contin®
Codeine Various Brand Names
Fentanyl Brand Name: Duragesic®
Hydromorphone Brand Name: Dilaudid®
Meperidine Brand Name: Demerol®
Methadone Various Brand Names
Tramadol Brand Name: Ultram, Ultram ER, Conzip

Addiction affects people from all walks of life.

The Office of the Attorney General sponsors a video/radio contest as part of the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” campaign. Students are asked to submit a video that highlights the dangers, risks and consequences associated with opioid misuse and abuse. Recent winners include Makayla Tappin from the Douglas County College and Career Institute, Endia Jennings from Bainbridge High School, and Angelie Ramirez from Gainesville High School.