An opioid is a medication prescribed by a doctor to relieve moderate to severe pain by weakening pain signals from nerves to the brain. Prevention, assessment, and treatment of chronic pain are challenges for healthcare providers and systems. There are clinical, psychological, and social consequences associated with chronic pain including limitations in complex activities, lost work productivity, reduced quality of life, and stigma, emphasizing the importance of appropriate and timely care.

It is important to acknowledge that opioids have been a standard of care in pain management for decades. Appropriate use of long-term opioid therapy must be considered within the context of all pain management strategies – including non-opioid medications, wellness activities, coping techniques, and non-pharmacologic procedures.


Opioids are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions including: chronic lower back pain, back pain, arthritis, cancer, kidney stones, complex regional pain syndrome, surgery, failed back surgery syndrome, and postoperative pain. Due to the side effects, risks, and complications of opioids they are best used to treat intense short-term pain.

Side Effects

Common side effects from taking opioids include: drowsiness, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. Additional adverse side effects include constipation, dry mouth, itching, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or confusion. More serious side effects can include: dependence, seizures, hallucinations, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, sexual dysfunction, urinary retention, addiction, and death. This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800- FDA-1088.