Opioids and Prescription Drugs

What is an Opioid?

Opioids: Natural or synthetic chemicals that interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain, and reduce the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain. This class of drugs includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain medications available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others. Opioid pain medications are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a health care professional, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused.

Opioid Use Disorder

A disorder characterized by loss of control of opioid use, risky opioid use, impaired social functioning, tolerance, and withdrawal.


What is fentanyl and why is it so dangerous?

Fentanyl is a potent, synthetic opioid that is approved for medical use by the FDA for pain relief. In a medical setting, fentanyl is useful in treating pain following surgery or in those suffering from cancer.

Fentanyl binds to the brain's opioid receptors in areas that control pain and emotions, producing feelings of relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, and sedation. These effects may also be paired with confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, pin-point pupils, slowed breathing, and unconsciousness. After taking opioids many times, the brain becomes less sensitive to the effects of the drug, causing the user to feel like they need more of it and making it difficult to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. 

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Because of the potency, fentanyl should only ever be consumed at the direction of a doctor and as dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.

Unfortunately, however, fentanyl is also made illegally. Fentanyl can be sold in powder or liquid form or made into pills that look like real prescription opioids. Illegal fentanyl is also being widely mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and MDMA.

This is extremely dangerous in considering the high potency of the drug and the ease in which a lethal dose may be added to various mixtures and other drugs. People are often unaware that fentanyl has been added to the pill or the powder they're taking, increasing their risk for overdose.


New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports

NYS OASAS's mission is to improve the lives of New Yorkers by leading a comprehensive system of addiction services for prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

SAMHSA's mission is to lead public health and service delivery efforts that promote mental health, prevent substance misuse, and provide treatments and supports to foster recovery while ensuring equitable access and better outcomes.

Partnership to End Addiction

The nation’s leading organization dedicated to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery, PTEA is a diverse community of researchers, advocates, clinicians, communicators and more.

Nassau County's Heroin Prevention Task Force

Nassau County's Heroin Prevention Task Force is a partnership of community, social, and government agencies dedicated to reducing the demand for heroin in Nassau County. It seeks to educate residents of the prevalence of the heroin problem, the signs and symptoms of addiction, and the resources available. Through public education, advocacy, media, law enforcement, and legislation, it seeks to eliminate drug-related crime in Nassau County.