Frequently Asked Questions and Glossary of Terms

Frequently Asked Questions

 Prescription opioids are sometimes used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. Because prescription opioids have a number of serious side effects and risks, it is important for you to ask questions, learn more about opioids, and understand their risks. Make sure you’re getting care that is safe, effective, and right for you.

What is the Difference Between Acute Pain and Chronic Pain?

Acute pain usually starts suddenly and has a known cause, like an injury or surgery. It normally gets better as your body heals. Chronic pain is pain lasting 3 months or more and can be caused by a disease or condition, injury, medical treatment, inflammation, or even an unknown reason.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are natural or synthetic chemicals that reduce feelings of pain. Common prescription opioids include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl
Are Opioids Necessary?

Opioid medications are one of many ways to treat pain. It may be helpful to know that:

  • Acute pain: usually starts suddenly and has a known cause, like an injury or surgery. It normally gets better as your body heals.
  • Chronic pain: pain lasts 3 months or more and can be caused by a disease or condition, injury, medical treatment, inflammation, or even an unknown reason.

Prescription opioids can be used to treat severe acute pain, but there is no evidence that they are as effective for long-term use. If you’re prescribed an opioid, the best approach is to try the lowest possible dose in the smallest quantity. Opioids should only be used when necessary and only for as long as necessary. Generally, for acute pain this is often 3 days or less; more than 7 days is rarely needed.

Before taking opioid medication for chronic pain:

  • Discuss with your doctor pain treatment options, including ones that do not involve prescription drugs.
  • Tell your doctor about your medical history and if you or anyone in your family has a history of substance misuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol.
  • Discuss all of the risks and benefits of taking prescription opioids.

Talking openly with your healthcare provider will help to make sure you’re getting care that is safe, effective, and right for you. Set up a follow-up appointment with your doctor to reevaluate your pain and, if you have been taking opioids for more than a few days, give you guidance on the best way to cope with possible withdrawal symptoms when you stop.

Will I Get Addicted to Opioids?

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. You may also develop tolerance—meaning that over time you might need higher doses to relieve your pain, putting you at higher risk for a potentially fatal overdose. You can also develop physical dependence—meaning you have withdrawal symptoms when the medication is stopped.

Tell your doctor about your medical history and if you or anyone in your family has a history of substance misuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol. Also, never take opioids in higher amounts or more often than prescribed.

Can I Avoid Side Effects and Risks?

No. Opioids pose a risk to all patients. Anyone taking prescription opioids is at risk for unintentional overdose or death and can become addicted. From 1999 to 2017, more than 218,000 people died from overdose related to prescription opioids in the United States.1 Up to 1 out of 4 people receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid use disorder.

In addition to the serious risks of opioid use disorder and overdose, the use of prescription opioids can have a number of side effects, even when taken as directed. Review these with your doctor, so you know what you may expect:

  • Tolerance—needing to take more of the medication over time for the same pain relief
  • Physical dependence—experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when the medication is stopped
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy, and strength
  • Itching
  • Sweating

Remember, your doctor is a partner in your pain treatment plan. It’s important to talk about any and all side effects and concerns to make sure you’re getting the safest and most effective care.

What is the Difference between “Tolerance,” “Dependence,” and “Addiction”?

Opioid tolerance occurs when a person using opioids begins to experience a reduced response to medication, requiring more opioids to experience the same effect.

Opioid dependence occurs when the body adjusts its normal functioning around regular opioid use. Unpleasant physical symptoms occur when medication is stopped.

Opioid addiction (Opioid use disorder (OUD)) occurs when attempts to cut down or control use are unsuccessful or when use results in social problems and a failure to fulfill obligations at work, school, and home. Opioid addiction often comes after the person has developed opioid tolerance and dependence, making it physically challenging to stop opioid use and increasing the risk of withdrawal.

What is Drug Misuse?

What is Drug Misuse: The use of prescription drugs without a prescription, or in a different way than prescribed.

What is Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)?

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD): sometimes referred to as “opioid abuse or dependence,” or “opioid addiction.” OUD is a problematic pattern of opioid use that causes significant impairments at work, school, or home, among other criteria or distress, such as unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use, social problems, and a failure to fulfill obligations.

What Combinations Increase the Risk of Overdosing?

It is very dangerous to combine opioids with other drugs, especially those that cause drowsiness. Risk of opioid overdose and death increases at higher dosages, and when taken for longer periods of time or more often than prescribed.

Talk to your doctor about any other medications you are using. Work out a plan to call your doctor if you continue to experience pain. Also ask about the serious side effects (like excessive sleepiness or craving more of the medication) so you and your family know when to call a doctor or go to the hospital.

Overdose risk increases when your opioid medication is combined with:

  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos,” including diazepam and alprazolam)
  • Other sedatives
  • Other opioids (prescription or illicit, including heroin)
* Frequently Asked Questions provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For more information:

Street Names Drug Glossary

Determining if a loved one is abusing drugs because you are unfamiliar with the slang drug names that they may be using can be difficult. It always a good idea to know common slang terms for drugs. This helps familiarize yourself with the type of drug you suspect is being misused and its relevant street names so that you can better identify the problem.

Amphetamine Street Names

Amphetamines are stimulants that affect the central nervous system. They include Adderall, Benezedrine, Ephedrine, Ritalin, and methamphetamine. Someone on one of these drugs will often have more energy, be more focused, and may be overly confident.

Common slang names for Amphetamines include:

Addys                                  Amy                                  Beans                                  Black Birds                                  Black Mollies
Cartwheels                         Chunk                              Diablos French Blues        Greenies                                     Horse Head
Jelly Babies                         Lid Poppers                    Little Bombs                        Morning Shots                          Pixies

Methamphetamine Street Names

Methamphetamine can be extremely hazardous to a person’s health. Common slang names for methamphetamine specifically include:

Colorado Rockies
Ice or Hot Ice
Soap Dope

Barbiturate Street Names

These synthetic drugs are sedatives that slow down the central nervous system. There are many different types including Nembutal, Luminal, Seconal, Butisol, and more. Some common drug slang names for barbiturates include:

Yellow Jackets

Cocaine Street Names

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant. It is often snorted for recreational use and may be mixed with heroin. Common slang names for cocaine include:

Angel Powder
Belushi (when mixed with heroin)
Big C
Crusty Treats
Death Valley
Devil’s Dandruff
Double Bubble
Gold Dust
Heaven Dust
Movie Star Drug
Nose Candy
Paradise White
Racehorse Charlie
Sleigh Ride
Speedball (when mixed with heroin)
White Lady

Crack Cocaine Street Names

Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine that is smoked (known as freebasing). Some streets names for crack cocaine include:

Apple Jack
Breakfast of Champions
Devil Smoke
Dime Special
Eye Opener
Speed Boat
White Ball

Opioid Street Names

There are many different types of opioids that people abuse. One commonly abused opioid is heroin. Heroin is typically injected and can be highly addictive. Some common drug slang names for heroin include:

Aunt Hazel
Big H
Black Olives
Black Tar
Brick Gun
Brown Sugar
Roofing Tar
Tootsie Roll

Prescription Pain Pill Street Names

Prescription pain pills are also being abused more frequently. There are various different types of these medicines but some street names for prescription pain pills to listen for are:

Captain Cody
First line
God’s drug
Miss Emma

Fentanyl Street Names

Fentanyl in particular is a dangerous opioid that is being abused increasingly. Slang names for fentanyl include:

China White
Crazy One

Club Drugs - LSD Street Names

LSD is a psychedelic drug that cause confusion and hallucinations. People often take it when clubbing or partying. The slang terms for LSD include:

Black Star
Blue Heaven
Blue Sky
California Sunshine
Dental Floss
Electric Kool Aid
Hawaiian Sunshine
Jesus Christ Acid
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Pink Panthers
Pure Love
Purple Haze
White Dust

Club Drugs - MDMA Street Names

MDMA is another club drug that produces euphoric effects. Street names for MDMA include:

Dancing Shoes
Ecstasy or E
Love Drug
Love Potion #9
Scooby Snacks

Marijuana Street Names

Marijuana comes from a plant and contains the mind-altering chemical THC. It is often seen as a gateway drug for other drugs. Common slang names for marijuana include:

African Bush
Aunt Mary
Blue Crush
Colorado Cocktail
Gold Leaf
Green Goblin
Jamaican Gold
Mary Jane

Glossary Of Terms

Understanding The Language 

Understanding commonly used terms and definitions is the first step in substance abuse education. The following is a brief list designed to help you better understand the substances and treatment language used in the substance abuse recovery process.

Acute Pain

Pain that usually starts suddenly and has a known cause, like an injury or surgery. It normally gets better as your body heals and lasts less than three months.


Pain relieving medications including over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) and prescription opioids.


Drugs that are similar in chemical structure or pharmacologic effect to another drug, but are not identical.

Chronic Pain

Pain that lasts 3 months or more and can be caused by a disease or condition, injury, medical treatment, inflammation, or an unknown reason.

Drug Misuse

The use of illegal drugs and/or the use of prescription drugs in a manner other than as directed by a doctor, such as use in greater amounts, more often, or longer than told to take a drug or using someone else’s prescription.

Drug Addiction

The preferred term is substance use disorder. When referring to opioids, see the Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) definition below and text box discussing the difference between “tolerance,” “dependence,” and “addiction.”

Extended-Release/Long-Acting (ER/LA) Opioids

Slower-acting medication with a longer duration of pain-relieving action.


Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. However, illegally made fentanyl is sold through illicit drug markets for its heroin-like effect, and it is often mixed with heroin or other drugs, such as cocaine, or pressed into counterfeit prescription pills.


An illegal, highly addictive opioid drug processed from morphine and extracted from certain poppy plants.

Illicit Drugs

The nonmedical use of a variety of drugs that are prohibited by law. These drugs can include: amphetamine- type stimulants, marijuana/cannabis, cocaine, heroin, other opioids, and synthetic drugs, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) and ecstasy (MDMA).

Immediate-Release Opioids

Faster-acting medication with a shorter duration of pain-relieving action.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Treatment for opioid use disorder combining the use of medications (methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone) with counseling and behavioral therapies.


A highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that is also categorized as a psychostimulant. Methamphetamine use has been linked to mental disorders, problems with physical health, violent behavior, and overdose deaths. Methamphetamine is commonly referred to as meth, ice, speed, and crystal, among many other terms.

Morphine Milligram Equivalents (MME)

The amount of milligrams of morphine an opioid dose is equal to when prescribed. Calculating MME accounts for differences in opioid drug type and strength.


A drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and can be life-saving if administered in time. The drug is sold under the brand name Narcan or Evzio.

Narcotic Drugs

Originally referred to any substance that dulled the senses and relieved pain. Some people use the term to refer to all illegal drugs but technically, it refers only to opioids. Opioid is now the preferred term to avoid confusion.

Non-Medical Use

Taking prescribed or diverted prescription drugs (drugs not prescribed to the person using them) not in the way, for the reasons, in the amount, or during the time-period prescribed.

Non-Opioid Therapy

Methods of managing pain that does not involve opioids. These methods can include, but are not limited to, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®), cognitive behavioral therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, meditation, exercise, medications for depression or for seizures, or interventional therapies (injections).

Non-Pharmacologic Therapy

Treatments that do not involve medications, including physical treatments (e.g., exercise therapy, weight loss) and behavioral treatments (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy).

“Opiates” vs. “Opioids”

Although these terms are often used interchangeably they are different:

Opiates refer to natural opioids such as heroin, morphine and codeine. Opioids refer to all natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic opioids.


Natural, synthetic, or semi-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. Prescription opioids are generally safe when taken for a short time and as directed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused and have addiction potential.

Opioid Analgesics

Commonly referred to as prescription opioids, medications that have been used to treat moderate to severe pain in some patients. Categories of opioids for mortality data include:

  • Natural opioid analgesics, including morphine and codeine;
  • Semi-synthetic opioid analgesics, including drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone;
  • Methadone, a synthetic opioid that can be prescribed for pain reduction or for use in MAT for opioid use disorder (OUD). For MAT, methadone is used under direct supervision of a healthcare provider;
  • Synthetic opioid analgesics other than methadone, including drugs such as tramadol and fentanyl.
Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

A problematic pattern of opioid use that causes significant impairment or distress. A diagnosis is based on specific criteria such as unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use, or use resulting in social problems and a failure to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home, among other criteria. Opioid use disorder is preferred over other terms with similar definitions, “opioid abuse or dependence” or “opioid addiction.”


Injury to the body (poisoning) that happens when a drug is taken in excessive amounts. An overdose can be fatal or nonfatal.

Physical Dependence

Adaptation to a drug that produces symptoms of withdrawal when the drug is stopped.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

State or territorial-run electronic databases that track controlled substance prescriptions. PDMPs help providers identify patients at risk of opioid misuse, opioid use disorder, and/or overdose due to overlapping prescriptions, high dosages, or co-prescribing of opioids with benzodiazepines.


Reduced response to a drug with repeated use.

* Frequently Asked Questions provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For more information:

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