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    If you’ve just had surgery or a severe injury, or if you have chronic pain, your doctor may prescribe you opioids to lessen your discomfort. Pain-numbing medicine made from the opium poppy plant are called opiates. Man-made versions of these drugs are opioids, but that word often refers to all forms of opiates. Opioids and opiates work the same way.

    Opioids are narcotics, which block feelings of pain. Milder forms of opioids also can help suppress coughs or ease severe diarrhea.

    How Do You Take Them?

    It depends your situation. But there are several ways to get opioids:

    • Pill or liquid by mouth
    • Nasal spray
    • Skin patch
    • Tablet dissolved under the tongue or between the gum and cheek
    • Suppository
    • Shot into a vein
    • Shot into a muscle
    • Shot into the space surrounding the spinal cord
    • Implanted pump

    Opioids can be short-acting or long-acting. The short-acting kind often have an opioid as the only pain medicine or a combination of an opioid and another type of pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It can take 15 to 30 minutes for you to feel relief, which should last for 3 to 4 hours.

    They help with pain from serious injury or surgery, and they're usually prescribed for pain that lasts only a few days.

    If you’ve had moderate to severe pain for a long time, your doctor can give you something with a longer-lasting effect. These can give you steady relief for 8 to 12 hours and are taken on a regular schedule.

    You can also use short-acting opioids with a long-acting treatment as “rescue medication” for times when the pain is very bad.

    How Do Opioids Work?

    Opioids attach to receptors -- a part of cells -- found in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. They reduce the sending of pain messages to the brain and reduce feelings of pain.

    What Opioids Are Available?

    Examples of opioids are: