What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescription and illegal forms. Prescription opioids are most commonly prescribed for acute, short-term pain, such as post-surgical pain. Potent, illegal opioids, such as fentanyl and heroin, can be found laced in different drugs without the user’s knowledge or even in its pure form.

Tap the images below to learn about the different types of opioids.


The most common prescriptions in the U.S. are Vicodin®, Lorect®, and Vicoprofen®.


An illegal, synthetic opioid similar to morphine, but 100x more potent.1


Often mixed with pain relievers like Tylenol®, it’s primarily prescribed as cough syrup or tablets.


Can come in tablets, liquid, or a hospital injection.


Usually in tablet or pill form, some brands include OxyContin®, Percocet®, Oxecta®, Roxicodone®.


An illegal opioid referred to as dope, smack, H, junk, and skag.

Opioid addiction or opioid use disorder (OUD) refers to a problematic pattern of opioid use characterized by a physical or mental reliance on opioids.

The Escalation of Cravings
Can Happen Quickly

The strength of these pills are so strong that even someone with strong self-control can start to cave to opioid cravings. Opioids “hijack” the brain’s reward system and chemically alter your brain to crave more. Your body also starts to chemically adjust and build a tolerance. In less than a week,5 these small changes can form an opioid use disorder.

Warning Signs Anchor

2 million

The number of people in the U.S. suffering from an opioid use disorder.11

Identify the Warning Signs

Opioids don’t just change your brain. They can start to affect other areas in your life. These changes may be hard to notice at first, but over time, they can build up and then spiral out of control. Know the warning signs below so you can recognize them early.

Mood Changes

Signs include: feeling more irritable or anxious than you used to be, especially in between pills.

Irregular Sleep Patterns

Signs include: not being able to sleep, tossing and turning at night, feeling really tired, sleeping at odd hours.

New Habits & Routines

Signs include: putting off responsibilities, being less active, slipping into an unhealthy routine, not taking care of yourself.

Detaching From Others

Signs include: canceling plans with friends and family, ignoring calls and texts, starting to miss work, avoiding social interactions.

Increased Cravings

Signs include: watching the clock, counting down to your next pill, upping the dosage, taking more often or “just in case,” even when not in pain.

Fear of Running Out

Signs include: worried about not having extras on hand, seeking out more pills or stealing from friends or family, not leaving home without a pill.

Accidental Overdoses
Are Common

You don’t have to have an opioid use disorder to experience an overdose. Over half of overdoses occur at home2 and taking too much or not exactly as prescribed can increase your risk of overdosing. It can also be hard to tell if someone is overdosing because the changes are so subtle it can look similar to sleeping.

7 per day

On average, 7 people in Illinois die every day from a fentanyl-related overdose.12,13

NEXT:Life-Saving Tips

An accidental overdose from opioids or fentanyl-laced drugs does not have to be fatal. You can reverse an overdose with the life-saving drug naloxone. See why anyone taking prescription opioids or pills and powders should also get naloxone (Narcan®) from their pharmacy.