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Definition - What does opioid mean?

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes both natural opiates derived from the opium plant and synthetic emulators of those drugs. Some medical professionals use the term opioid to distinguish synthetic versions of the drug from their natural counterparts. However, the two terms opiate and opioid are generally used interchangeably.

Within the opioid family of drugs are legal drugs used for pain relief such as OxyContin and Percocel, and illegal drugs such as heroin. Because even legally prescribed opioids are highly addictive and subject to abuse, many of these medications are classified as Schedule II controlled substances pursuant to the United States' Controlled Substances Act. Codeine, buprenorphine, and some hydrocodone formulations are among those opioids that are classified as Schedule III through V substances.

The U.S. government's Department of Transportation restricts the use of opiates for individuals employed in so-called safety-sensitive positions. Individuals holding such jobs (covered employees) are subject to mandatory drug testing. Opioids are among the five categories of drugs for which covered employees must be tested.

SureHire explains opioid

Despite the fact that opioids are highly addictive, they continue to be prescribed for pain relief. Many patients who don't respond to other pain treatments benefit from the use of opioids. The body naturally produces opioids which attach to opioid receptors in the brain. Manufactured opioids attach to these same receptors, blocking pain and calming the body. In addition to relieving pain, these opioids induce feelings of joy or satisfaction.

Unfortunately, as the dose of an opioid is increased, its calming effect can become deadly. In 2015, opioid overdoses caused over 33,000 deaths in the United States alone. It is estimated that over 2 million individuals living in the U.S. struggle with addiction to prescription opioids, heroin, or a combination of the two. In 2017, the misuse of opiods was declared a healthcare crisis.

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