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Opioids are a classification of illegal drugs, such as heroin, and legal medications, including oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone. The primary use of opioid medications is as pain relievers.


Opioid medications are derived from naturally occurring substances in a plant known as the opium poppy. Opium is extracted from the opium poppy plant by making incisions in the seed capsules after the petals have fallen from the plant. Once incised, a milky latex fluid exudes from the seedpods and coagulates into a gummy brown substance, raw opium. Raw opium is used to manufacturer opioid prescription drug medications, known as opiates. However, scientists have also learned how to make synthetic opioid drugs based on reproducing variations of the chemical structure found in opium.


The primary effects of opium and opioid drugs are euphoria, relaxation, and analgesia (the inability to feel pain). There is a long history of opium use, especially in Asia where the plant grows indigenously. Opium, in the form of heroin, is well known as a highly addictive drug that causes extreme addiction.

Opioid drug medications contain opium, a highly addictive substance which can lead to overdependency, addiction and abuse of the drug. If you think about it, anything that makes us feel so good is something we naturally want more of, and this is the problem with the opioid drugs and their effects.

Opioid medications are used to treat many medical conditions that cause significant physical pain—from a severe tooth ache to back pain to post-operative body aches, soreness and spasms. They are effective because they enable the body to relax and the person to recuperate from an injury or operation. However, once the body has recovered and the medication is no longer needed, the person may still have a craving for the delightful narcotic effects of the prescription drug. Misuse of opioid drug medications includes:

  • Taking a larger or more frequent dose of the medicine than prescribed
  • Taking another person’s prescription medicine
  • Taking the medicine after the condition for which it was prescribed has been resolved—in other words, taking opioids for the for the good-feeling effects
  • Becoming addicted to the opioid drug effects


Like most things in life that cause short-term relief and intoxication, the long-term effects of opioid drugs can be less that satisfying, even detrimental. The harmful effects of opioid drug medications include:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Hypoxia
  • Coma
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Death


Addiction is a sad fact of opioid medication use. Addiction can be described as an inability to function without use of the drug. Addiction to any drug, including alcohol, leads to a variety of dangerous and debilitating symptoms, including disruptions in one’s normal every life at work and in personal relationships.

People who have become addicted to opioid drug medications tend to have severe withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to use the drug (or decide to quit). Onset of symptoms of opioid withdrawal is fairly rapid, taking only a few hours after the effects of the drug wear off.

Opioid drug withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Musculoskeletal body pain
  • Pronounced anxiety and irritability
  • Cold flashes and goose bumps
  • Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Sleep problems
  • Severe cravings

Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely disconcerting. If you are addicted to opioids and/or are experiencing any of the above symptoms following opioid drug use, contact your doctor immediately.


There is currently a surge of lawsuits being filed against opioid drug manufacturers, especially Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. In fact, at least 27 states have filed suits against opioid drug companies. Civil litigation suits initiated by doctors and attorney generals at the state-level contend that pharmaceutical companies paid millions of dollars to downplay addiction concerns with opioid drug medications. They also claim that opioid drug companies exaggerated the benefits of opioid medications in marketing and lobbied doctors to increase opioid drug prescriptions.

In a similar fashion to the way in which tobacco companies were sued in the 1990s, current lawsuits claim that opioid drug companies are responsible for rampant misuse, addiction, and various kinds of injury to patients as regards prescribed opioid drug medications.

The central argument of lawsuits against opioid drug companies is that they did not adequately warn doctors or patients of the potentially destructive consequences of taking opioid drug medications, first and foremost being addiction to the drug.