Opioids are medications intended to control acute pain when used as directed by your doctor. This medication is commonly prescribed after surgery. Risks associated with opioid medications are increased when used incorrectly.
What opioid medications do
Opioids are prescription drugs that are intended to relieve pain by interacting with opioid receptors throughout your central and peripheral nervous system. Historically, opioids were derived from the poppy plant, most opioids are synthesized in a laboratory.
Opioid medications can be ingested in pill form and absorbed through the gastrointestinal system or given by intravenous (IV) methods. These travel through your blood and bind to opioid receptors in your brain and nervous system. Cells throughout your body release signals that mute the perception of pain.
When opioid medications are dangerous
Opioids are notorious for having a reputation to be dangerous and rightfully so when they are taken incorrectly. What makes opioid medications effective for treating pain can also make them dangerous.
These medications may make you feel sleepy and sedated, and at higher doses they slow your breathing and heart rate. This can ultimately lead to death especially when the brain and vital organs do not receive enough oxygen.
The feelings of pleasure that may result from taking opioid medications may result in addiction.
These dangerous side effects can be reduced by carefully following your doctor’s instructions and taking them exactly as prescribed and taking less when possible. Combining other medications and alcohol with opioids heightens the risk of death. It’s also important to avoid driving and operating heavy machinery when taking opioids.