What are opioids?

Prescription narcotics (“opioid”) is a category of painkillers. Doctors prescribe them, typically in pill form, to help patients with severe or chronic pain, Opioids are sometimes referred to as narcotics  and  there is always a risk of addiction.

What is prescription painkiller abuse?

  • Taking prescription painkillers in a way that was not prescribed, such as taking too many pills at one time, combining pills with alcohol or other drugs, or crushing pills into powder to snort or inject them.
  • Taking someone else’s prescription painkiller, even if you’re doing so for the medication’s intended purpose, to ease pain.
  • Taking prescription painkillers for the sole purpose of feeling good or getting high.

Abuse, misuse, or even proper use of narcotics– prescription painkillers – can lead to addiction and even death.

Who is at risk for addiction?

Individuals who abuse prescription painkiller have a greater risk of addiction– but it’s important to remember the medication itself is potentially addictive even when taken as directed.

Opioids can change a patient’s brain chemistry in as little as five days. People who take opioids for extended periods of time are especially at risk.

When individuals who become dependent on a prescription narcotic painkiller stop using it, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms including restlessness, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, anger, depression, muscle or bone pain, nausea and more. Therefore, the risk of addiction should be weighed against the benefits of the medication and any concerns should be discussed with your doctor.

The Tennessee Office of the Attorney General has filed lawsuits against both Purdue Pharma L.P. and Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Endo Health Solutions Inc. for misrepresenting the safety and addictive potential of their opioids. Legal action has also been taken against opioid distributor AmerisourceBergen.

What are the dangers of prescription painkillers?

Taking just one dose too large can cause serious health problems and potentially lead to death. Here’s a dose of reality: Deaths from unintended drug overdoses have been rising sharply in recent years. In 2017, prescription painkillers accounted for close to 17,000 deaths in the United States. That’s more than three times the number of deaths almost two decades earlier – just 5,528 in 2001. Tennessee had the third highest prescribing rate in the country in 2017. Providers wrote 94.4 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons. (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

Remember, the risk of overdose and death increases exponentially when prescription painkillers are combined with other drugs or alcohol.  Hospital visits involving opioid acute poisoning (including overdose) increased from 25.3 to 52.0 per 100,000 between 2006 and 2014.

Common Prescription Opioid (Narcotic) Painkillers

Oxycodone Brand Names: OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®
Oxymorphone Brand Names: Opana®
Hydrocodone Brand Names: Vicodin®, Lortab®, Lorcet®
Morphine Brand Names: Kadian®, Avinza®, MS Contin®
Codeine Various Brand Names
Fentanyl Brand Name: Duragesic®
Hydromorphone Brand Name: Dilaudid®
Meperidine Brand Name: Demerol®
Methadone Various Brand Names

Addiction affects people from all walks of life.

TN Faces of Opioids:

The Tennessee Department of Health is sharing the stories of Tennesseans affected by the opioid epidemic and what they are doing in every county and community of our state to bring it to an end. Learn More

Tennessee Drug Overdose Dashboard:

Use this interactive tool to see state, regional, and county level data on fatal overdoses, nonfatal overdoses and drug prescribing. Learn More