What are Opioids and Why Are They Prescribed?

Dr. Rodgers is joined by Dr. Nora Volkow, who describes common prescription opioids and how they work.

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DR. RODGERS: If your doctor has ever prescribed medicine to help relieve pain after an injury or a medical procedure, it may have been something called an opioid. Opioids are prescription painkillers.

Hi, I'm Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at NIH.

My colleague, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains:

DR. VOLKOW: Opioids, such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, morphine, or codeine, are commonly prescribed to relieve severe short-term pain due to surgery or a broken bone.

Opioids work by reducing the power of pain signals reaching the brain, and affect the part that controls emotions, which reduces the pain a person might feel.

Taken as directed, opioids can safely relieve pain, but should only be used for the shortest amount of time. If you experience long-term pain, you need to talk to your doctor about other options.

DR. RODGERS: For more information, follow us on Twitter @HealthyMoments.

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