Opioids are a group of drugs made from plants such as the opium poppy [23503]. They can be legal medicines (pharmaceutical opioids) used for pain relief which are prescribed by a doctor (such as fentanyl and oxycodone), or illegal drugs, like heroin [23509][26504][23503].

Opioids are known as depressant drugs because they slow down the messages travelling between the brain and the body [26504].

Use of legal or illegal opioids for non-medical purposes can lead to health and social problems and a higher chance of death at a young age [27894]. Opioids are highly addictive and regular use can lead to long-term problems when people become dependent on the drug.

Physical harms from dependent opioid use include overdose, blood-borne viruses from injecting, and dental problems (opioids dry up saliva) [23503]. If people are dependent on opioids, it can lead to depression or anxiety.

There are ways to reduce possible harms related to opioid dependence, such as [23503]:

  • avoid combining opioids with other depressant drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines
  • try safer injecting practices like using clean needles and other injecting equipment and not sharing with others
  • avoid injury by not driving or using machinery while intoxicated
  • seek treatment support from a doctor.

In addition to the health costs, the non-medical use of opioids is associated with a number of social and economic costs [23503][27894]. These include:

  • family and community disruption
  • harms to the welfare of children
  • drug-related crime
  • issues with money
  • contact with the criminal justice system.


Key resources



Mina Mina Jukurrpa (Mina Mina Dreaming) by Sabrina Napangardi Granites

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