Opioid use considerations

Prescription opioids like Vicodin can be used to effectively manage pain. However, there are important risks and considerations to take into account before using these medications.

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Most of us, at one time or another, have experienced the need for pain medication. If you’ve had general surgery, dental surgery, an outpatient procedure, cancer or been in an accident, then chances are, you may have been prescribed an opioid. Opioids are effective at treating acute pain as well as relieving chronic pain. What people typically do not realize, though, is that opioid use disorder can happen in a short period of time depending on the dose and individual. Many people develop opioid use disorder due to chronic pain conditions and the need for pain relief. Anyone who uses opioids is at risk for opioid misuse. Talking to your health care provider about how to use opioid medication and other options to relieve pain can be helpful as you decide which pain management strategies are best for you.

What Are Opioids?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “prescription opioid pain medications such as Morphine, OxyContin and Vicodin are made from opium, which comes from the poppy plant are legal when prescribed by a medical provider for a physical condition.  Morphine and codeine are two natural products of opium. Morphine, which is legal can also be turned into heroin which is illegal. Heroin is not a legal prescription drug.”

Physical Effects of Opioid Use

  • Even when taken as prescribed, there can be many side effects of opioid use, including respiratory depression, slowing of physical movement, sedation/sleepiness, depression, slow digestion, constipation, nausea and liver damage.
  • Ultimately, using opioids can develop into a brain disease, an opioid use disorder, that requires therapy and treatment. If opioids are misused, other serious side effects include overdose and death.
  • Using opioids under the careful supervision of a qualified healthcare provider certainly has its time and place. Opioids can relieve pain, allowing us time to heal and rest. Unfortunately, long term use of opioids can lead to opioid use disorder because they act on many places in the brain that result in pain relief and pleasurable effects. Because of these effects, it can be very difficult for people to stop their use of opioids.
  • When an opioid drug is used on a regular basis, the pain relief effects of the same amount of the drug on the body can become less over time. A person developing tolerance to opioids needs larger amounts of the drug to get the same pain relief effect.

To learn more about opioid use disorder and what you can do to support prevention and recovery in your community, please visit MSU Extension's MiSUPER website.

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