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Opioids are a class of drugs derived from opium, or synthetically engineered to be similar in molecular structure and effect on the body. They are usually prescribed by a doctor for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Due to their addictive nature and impairment of cognitive function, they have fallen from favor in the medical community. These drugs are currently popular on the black market and are often obtained by illegal means such as prescription forgery.
A short sampling of popular opioid drugs include the following:
Codeine - Sold under many names and included in many formulations used for the treatment of minor to moderate pain, cough and cold, etc.
Vicodin or Lortab - "Hydrocodone" used to treat moderate to severe pain. Vicodin and Lortab formulations combine hydrocodone with acetaminophen or ibuprofen
Percocet or Oxycontin - "Oxycodone" used to treat moderate to severe pain. The percocet formulation combines oxycodone with acetaminophen. The Oxycontin formulation is a time-release oxycodone tablet.
Dilaudid - "Hydromorphone" used for moderate to severe pain
Morphine - Usually injected for treatment of severe pain
In the 1800s and before, opioids were unregulated by law. Opioid extracts were often a major component of "snake oil" remedies sold by peddlers. These peddlers touted their formula as a cure-all which would alleviate anything from a headache to arthritis to depression. In reality these formulas served only to get the user "high" and create a false feeling of well-being without actually curing the illness. Many users became addicted to these formulations.