Many Americans Aren’t Quite Sure What an Opioid Is—Here’s What You Should Know

Despite being in the midst of an opioid epidemic that continues to get worse, many Americans, it turns out, aren’t quite sure what the most common opioids actually are, as highlighted in a new survey of 1,000 people.

Conducted by health technology company DrFirst, which includes a network of over 300,000 health-care providers, the survey found that only one in five participants could name five of the seven most commonly prescribed opioids. (For the record, they are: Tramadol, Hydromorphone, Morphine sulfate, Methadone, Hydrocodone, Fentanyl, and Oxycodone.)

The reason why being able to identify opioids is a big deal is because if you don’t know you’re being prescribed one, you won’t be aware of the side effects or risk factors. “[The health repercussions of not knowing if you’re being prescribed an opioid or not] are quite serious as opioids are associated with opioid-induced respiratory depression which can lead to overdose and death,”  says family medicine physician and pain management expert Robert Agnello, DO. “Overdose is not difficult. A patient could also take these with alcohol unaware and heighten the risk.”

“It’s important for people to understand the effects that opiates have on the body as well as the impact they can have on judgment and insight,” says Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D, a licensed clinical psychologist and the executive director of Innovation360, an outpatient counseling service that works with people struggling with substance abuse. Here, Dr. Gilliland and Dr. Agnello detail what it’s important to know about opioid medications.

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