What Is an Opioid?

Understanding the Dangerous Drugs on the Market


Opioids are a dangerous class of drugs that include both illicit (illegal) drugs and those available by prescription. Opioids are used to relieve pain but can have serious side effects including death.

As noted by the Department of Justice, examples of opioids include:

  • Heroin
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone

Opioids are known to cause addiction. They can cause “intense euphoria” when misused. Common side effects from opioid abuse include nausea, vomiting, respiratory arrest, confusion, coma, and, in some cases, may prove fatal. 

Why Is Fentanyl Causing So Many Deaths?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 to 100x more potent than its counterparts. Many individuals who overdose from fentanyl believe that they are purchasing a weaker drug. It is very cheap to manufacture, so traffickers often mix the potentially deadly drug with other drugs. Unsuspecting individuals purchase what they think is heroin or another (less potent) prescription drug.

According to the
University of Colorado, Boulder, as little as 2 mg of fentanyl can be lethal. Drugs sold over the internet or anywhere other than a pharmacy are more likely to be counterfeit. 

As noted on the University of Colorado Boulder website the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that “nearly half of all counterfeit pills tested contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.” The CDC recently announced that fentanyl is the “leading cause of death among adults 18 to 45 in the United States.”

The results of this strong opioid are devastating and potentially deadly. Few people realize how potent the drug is until it is too late. Counterfeiters are getting better are producing fake drugs to sell to individuals across the country.