Opioids are a category of drugs and medications that are generally used for pain relief.

People often take opioids for the feelings of euphoria and relaxation they can provide. There are a variety of different opioids, and some are taken more often than others.

The majority of opioids are controlled substances. This means the government regulates their manufacture, possession, and use.

Some opioids are human-made (synthetic), while others come from the opium poppy plant. Some are semi-synthetic.

While all opioids are different, common side effects include nausea and vomiting, itchiness, sedation, constipation, and slower breathing. Unintentional opioid poisoning is possible, too, and can lead to coma and death.

The term “narcotic” is sometimes used instead of “opioid.” This can create confusion because some people use the term to refer to any illegal drug. It can also have pejorative connotations. That’s why the term “opioid” is preferred.

Codeine is the most commonly taken opioid in the United States. It’s typically prescribed to treat and manage chronic pain or as part of palliative care. It can be injected or taken orally, either as a tablet or a liquid solution.

Some prescription cough medicines contain codeine alongside the antihistamine promethazine. These substances are sometimes combined with soda to make a drink nicknamed ”lean” or ”sizzurp.”

Common side effects of codeine include:

Chronic codeine use can cause bronchospasm, hypersensitivity, and pancreatitis.

Tramadol is an opioid that’s taken to treat moderate to severe pain. It’s often prescribed under the brand name Ultram.

It can be swallowed as pills or capsules. Sometimes people will crush tablets up and snort them. Like other opioids, it can make people feel happy and relaxed.

Common side effects of tramadol include:

Unintentional tramadol poisoning can decrease your breathing rate, cause acute liver failure, and potentially result in death.

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid prescribed for pain under the names Tylox, Percodan, and OxyContin.

Common nicknames include:

  • ”hillbilly heroin”
  • ”kicker”
  • ”oxy”
  • ”perc”

Some people who use oxycodone will chew or swallow pills or tablets, heat tablets on foil and inhale the vapors, crush and sniff tablets, or dissolve them in water and inject them.

Like other opioids, oxycodone can provide feelings of pain relief, euphoria, and relaxation.

Common side effects of oxycodone include:

  • constipation
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • itching
  • nausea
  • slower breathing
  • vomiting

Chronic use of oxycodone alongside acetaminophen can cause severe liver damage. Unintentional oxycodone poisoning can lead to coma and death.

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid used to treat pain. It’s often prescribed under the name Zohydro ER.

Common side effects of hydrocodone include:

Chronic hydrocodone use can cause low blood pressure.

Hydromorphone, often prescribed as Dilaudid, is used to relieve pain.

Common nicknames include:

  • ”D”
  • ”dillies”
  • ”dust”
  • ”footballs”
  • ”juice”
  • ”smack”

It’s available in tablets, rectal suppositories, oral solutions, and injectable formulations.

Hydromorphone is more potent than morphine but has a shorter duration and greater sedation.

Other side effects of hydromorphone include:

Chronic hydrocodone use can cause decreased muscle tone and low blood pressure.

Unintentional hydromorphone poisoning can cause cold or clammy skin, dangerously slow breathing, reduced heart rate, and stupor or coma.

Morphine is a nonsynthetic opioid made from opium. It’s often prescribed as MS-Contin, Oramorph SR, and Roxanol.

Common nicknames include:

  • ”dreamer”
  • ”emsel”
  • ”first line”
  • ”God’s drug”
  • ”hows”
  • ”MS”
  • ”mister blue”
  • ”morpho”
  • ”unkie”

Morphine can be injected or taken as oral solutions, in tablets or capsules, or as a suppository. Like other opioids, it can provide feelings of euphoria and pain relief.

Potential side effects of morphine include:

  • constipation
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • itching
  • nausea
  • rashes
  • urinary retention
  • vomiting

Chronic morphine use can cause low blood pressure. Unintentional morphine poisoning can cause cold and clammy skin, reduced heart rate, coma, and death.

Heroin is made from morphine and can elicit feelings of euphoria. Common nicknames include:

  • ”chiva”
  • ”horse”
  • ”smack”
  • ”thunder”

It’s often in the form of a white or brown powder or as a sticky black substance, which is known as black tar heroin. It’s often injected or smoked but can also be snorted.

Common side effects of heroin include:

  • abdominal cramps
  • constipation
  • dry mouth
  • itching
  • nausea
  • vomiting

When taken in combination with alcohol, heroin can cause a dangerous decrease in breathing and heart rate. This can result in coma and death.

Chronic heroin use can cause:

People who use heroin intravenously with shared or unsterilized needles have an increased risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an analgesic and an anesthetic.

As an analgesic, it’s around 100 times more potent than morphine and about 50 times more potent than heroin.

Common nicknames include:

  • ”Apache”
  • ”dance fever
  • “goodfellas”
  • ”great bear

There are a number of ways in which somebody might use fentanyl. It can be snorted, smoked, taken orally, or spiked onto blotter paper or patches.

It can provide feelings of euphoria and relaxation.

Common side effects of fentanyl include:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • sedation
  • slower breathing
  • urinary retention

Unintentional fentanyl poisoning can cause:

Carfentanil is an analog of fentanyl and one of the most potent opioids out there. It’s not intended for human use —rather, it’s used to sedate large animals. Consuming carfentanil can be fatal.

Opium is a non-synthetic narcotic extracted from the poppy plant and made into a liquid, powder, or solid. The opium poppy is a key base for a number of opioids.

Common nicknames include:

  • ”Chinese molasses”
  • ”dopium”
  • ”gee”
  • ”guma”
  • ”midnight oil”

Opium can be smoked, injected, or taken in pill form. It’s sometimes taken in combination with other drugs, including cannabis and methamphetamine.

It can provide a euphoric rush, as well as feelings of relaxation and pain relief.

Side effects of opium include:

Unintentional opium poisoning can cause seizures, coma, and death.

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Adam England lives in the UK, and his work has appeared in a number of national and international publications. When he’s not working, he’s probably listening to live music.