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5 of the Top Prescribed Prescription Drugs with Opioids

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Prescription drugs with Opiates?

In 2015, there were more than 300 million prescriptions dispensed for narcotic pain medications globally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Out of the 300 million patients prescribed opiates, approximately 3 million of them struggled with opioid addiction that year.  
Opioid drugs are drugs that bind to the opiate receptors, which significantly reduce the feelings of pain. Many prescription drugs have opiates in them, including codeine, oxycodone, and more. Now, let’s take a look at these drugs, prescribing practices, and their possible side effects and risks.   

Opioid Abuse Epidemic Facts  

Before diving into our list of what prescription drugs have opiates in them, it’s essential to gain an understanding of the severity of the opioid epidemic.  

  • Almost 80 percent of Americans using heroin reported misusing prescription opioids first. (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Heroin mimics the effects of opioids, but many buy it for much cheaper on the street than prescription drugs.  
  • Worldwide, about 58 million people use opioids. About 35.6 million people had suffered from drug use disorders in 2018. (World Health Organization).  
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. (Addictions and Recovery).  
  • Between 1999–2018, almost 450,000 people had died from an overdose involving opioids, (either prescription or illicit). (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).   

Opioid Tolerance and Dependence

Opiates build physical tolerance very quickly because they cause an artificial increase of dopamine, a feel-good hormone. Once the brain becomes accustomed to this new level of dopamine, it must rely on opioids to function “properly.” The standard definition of tolerance is the constant increase of dose required to achieve the initial results. Of note, untreated tolerance often leads to opioid dependence. Opioid dependence stems from specific changes in the brain system.
Moreover, continuous and repeated exposure to opioids leads to a neuron adjustment and an increasing level of activity. Now, when there is sudden discontinuation of opiates, a physiological response, known as withdrawal syndrome, occurs. Finally, this unwelcomed response triggers jitters, anxiety, muscle cramps, and diarrhea. 
Many people develop a dependence on opioids after receiving prescription opiates for surgery or other health issues. Moreover, it is crucial to know that physical dependence on the drugs can occur to anyone, even if the individual has never had previous addiction or substance abuse issues. 

How Opiates Affect Your Brain

The activation that occurs in the brain’s natural reward system creates a constant craving for a continuous drug, regardless of the adverse effects and risks, leading to the beginning of opioid addiction.  
Opioid Use Disorder can change the brain and body in multiple ways. For example:  

  • They attach to the receptors in the brain that signal pain, block them, and trigger an increase in dopamine. This effect creates a sense of pleasure, relaxation, and sedation.  
  • Repeated exposure to opioid drugs causes physical dependence, which leads to painful withdrawal symptoms if the drug is discontinued.  
  • Changes in the brain related to opioid use also lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior and negative consequences.   
  • Chronic pain patients are often victims of hyperalgesia. A condition that causes the opioid user’s nerves to have an overactive response, increasing feelings of pain. Hyperalgesia is a direct result of changes to nerve pathways. 

What Prescription Drugs Have Opiates in Them?

Now that we’ve covered the gravity of the opioid epidemic in our country and how opioids change your brain, let’s explore what prescription drugs have opiates in them.  


First on the list of prescription drugs that contain opiates is Codeine. Codeine is a commonly prescribed painkiller that can help patients with minor to moderate pain. For instance, cough syrups and various types of medications often contain codeine. Codeine converts to morphine once it enters the brain, suppressing pain by latching to specific receptors in a user’s central nervous system.   
Commonly Used to Treat: 

  • Chronic coughs 
  • Diarrhea and/or irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Pain after surgery or related to an injury

Side Effects and Risks:  

  • Codeine gives people a “high” which can be intensified when combined with alcohol or other drugs.  
  • Codeine can make a person very drowsy and even slow their breathing. It’s important not to operate a vehicle while taking codeine.  
  • When paired with acetaminophen, codeine can also cause liver failure.    

Furthermore, young adults commonly use cough syrups containing Codeine to make “purple drank.” This specific drink is a recreational form of the drug prepared by mixing codeine-based cough syrup with pop soda or energy drinks. People refer to these dangers as lean, syrup, and sizzurp. 
Additionally, rappers like Lil’ Wayne and Three 6 Mafia even mention Purple drank in their songs. In all seriousness, this codeine mixture can cause seizures, unconsciousness, and even death by overdose. 


Users can inject Fentanyl or wear a skin patch. For example, conventional prescription drugs that include Fentanyl are Actiq, Onsolis, and Duragesic. This opioid is exceptionally potent, and synthetic Fentanyl is becoming a popular street drug because of its intense high. 
Commonly Used to Treat: 

  • Severe pain after surgery. 
  • Discomfort associated with cancer. 
  • Ongoing or extreme pain due to injury.  

Side Effects and Risks:  

  • Fentanyl is approximately 50-100 times more potent than morphine.  
  • This opioid can lead to coma, depression, and death if used in excess.  
  • When sold on the street, drug dealers commonly mix Fentanyl with Heroin and Cocaine. But, due to its toxicity, it’s incredibly dangerous when combined with these drugs, especially if the user is unaware their drugs are laced with Fentanyl.   

A report by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that more than 63,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, an average of 174 deaths per day. The number one drug responsible for these deaths was fentanyl, followed by heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. 


Hydrocodone is commonly used in combination with other non-opioid ingredients such as acetaminophen. Generally, Hysingla, Vicodin®, Norco, and Zohydro contain this painkiller. Hydrocodone is often administered as a pill or a syrup.  
Commonly Used to Treat: 

  • Physicians most often prescribe Hydrocodone for severe pain.  
  • It usually comes in an extended-release form and is taken once every 12 hours for pain management.   
  • Although not as common, Hydrocodone can also serve as a medication for severe and chronic coughing.  

Side Effects and Risks:  

  • Loss of appetite, constipation, and sweating are all common side effects of Hydrocodone.   
  • The withdrawal of Hydrocodone can be painful for patients if they stop taking the drug abruptly. It’s crucial to strategically lessen your usage of prescribed hydrocodone to prevent withdrawal symptoms.  
  • Hydrocodone is a Schedule III narcotic by the DEA.

Furthermore, hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. Between 2007 and 2016, hydrocodone was the most widely prescribed opioid nationwide.  In 2015, the International Narcotics Control Board reported that Americans were responsible for about 99.7% of the entire world’s hydrocodone consumption. 


Morphine is a well-known narcotic and is often what people think of when they explore which prescription drugs contain opiates. Morphabond, Kadian®, and Avinza® all include morphine. Morphine can be taken orally or intravenously.  
Commonly Used to Treat: 

  • Chronic pain for severe illnesses such as cancer.  
  • Several discomforts after surgery.  
  • An extreme injury. 

Side Effects and Risks:  

  • Common side effects of Morphine include nausea and muscle cramps.   
  • People often experience restlessness and irritation when taking opioids.  
  • Additional side effects of Morphine include dilated pupils and watery eyes.  


Oxycodone comes in many forms, including pills, liquids, and extended-release tablets. Common prescription drugs containing Oxycodone include OxyContin® and Percocet®. When thinking about what prescription drugs have opiates in them, OxyContin® often comes to mind due to its popularity. Oxycodone can be crushed and snorted when in pill form or injected as a liquid.  
Commonly Used to Treat: 

  • Pain associated with chronic conditions such as arthritis and cancer.  
  • Sometimes administered after minor surgeries such as the removal of wisdom teeth.  
  • Helps manage pain associated with injuries.  

Side Effects and Risks:  

  • Common side effects include vomiting, nausea, and lack of appetite.   
  • Dizziness and drowsiness are also commonly experienced when people take Oxycodone.   
  • Mood changes, such as irritability, is sometimes reported with Oxycodone use.  

In 2007 the federal government brought criminal charges against Purdue Pharma claiming “misleadingly advertising and defrauding physicians and consumers.” This lawsuit was responsible for Purdue Pharma paying $634.5 million in criminal and civil fines.  
Speak-to-a-Waismann® -Institute-expert-about-what-prescription-drugs-have-opiates-in-them-and-whether-or-not-you-should-seek-treatment

Understanding Prescription Drugs and Addiction

Unfortunately, many people become dependent on prescription drugs with opiates after using them to help manage pain related to an injury or surgery. In fact, approximately 50 percent of people who take opioid pain medication for at least three months are still using opioids five years later, according to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).  
When considering your opioid detoxification and treatment options, consider a full-service accredited hospital that can cater to your individual needs. The Waismann Method® can help you or your loved one with their Heroin detoxFentanyl detox, or other types of opioid detoxification.     
Speak to a Waismann® Institute expert today to get started in your journey to opioid addiction recovery.  

Call Now for Treatment Information 1-800-423-2482

Published on Dec. 21, 2018
Reviewed by Clare Waismann, CATC, Founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependence
All topics for the Opiates.com blog are selected and written based on high standards of editorial quality, including cited sources. Articles are reviewed by Clare Waismann, CATC, and founder of Waismann Method®, for accuracy, credibility, and relevance to the audience. Clare Waismann is an authority and expert on opioid dependence, opioid use disorder, substance dependence, detoxification treatments, detox recovery, and other topics covered on the Opiates.com blog. Some articles are additionally reviewed by one of Waismann Method®’s specialists, depending on their field of expertise. For additional information and disclaimers regarding third-party sources and content for informational purposes only, please see our Terms of Service.

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