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What Qualifies a Prescription as an Opioid?

What Qualifies a Prescription as an Opioid?
Opioid painkillers crisis and drug abuse concept. Opioid and prescription medication addiction epidemic. Different kinds of multicolored pills. Pharmaceutical medicament background

Opioids are a class of drugs that are typically prescribed for pain relief, either in the form of a pill or a patch. The most common opioid medications include Vicodin , oxycodone, morphine, and many others.

Opioids are considered strong medications with a high potential for abuse and addiction. In fact, not only do they have a high potential for addiction, they are highly addictive even when taken as prescribed. Long-term use of opioids can lead to both physical and psychological dependence, physical withdrawal symptoms when stopped, and even an increased risk of overdose compared with other types of painkillers.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists all drugs sorted by class and substance on its website. Many of the drugs on this list are opioids, but for a prescription to be considered an opioid it must meet certain criteria.


A prescription with the following criteria is considered an opioid:

-Its chemical name contains one of the following: Morphine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone * , or Hydromorphone.

*The FDA has proposed to reclassify hydromorphone as a Schedule II controlled substance from its current status as a Schedule III controlled substance, which would make its prescription requirements the same as those for hydrocodone.

-It is dispensed in tablet or liquid form and not otherwise excluded by regulation.

-It was dispensed for a reason other than pain management (e.g., cough) and it contains at least one of the following:

• Acetaminophen

• Guaifenesin

• Ibuprofen *

*This requirement will not take effect until April 2014.   This means prescriptions for ibuprofen in the form of tablets, capsules, or liquids (excluding suppositories/rectal forms) may be prescribed by a healthcare practitioner for a legitimate medical reason until that date.

-It contains an analgesic, antitussive, antihistamine, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

-It is dispensed with the expectation that two refills will be used as prescribed.

-The prescription is written by a healthcare provider, orally phoned in by the prescriber’s office, or transmitted via electronic prescribing (eRx).

An opioid prescription that does not meet all of these criteria may be re-examined to determine if it meets all Federal and state controlled substance prescribing guidelines.

Opioid Addiction

Opioid Addiction is the compulsive use of anything that affects the flow of certain neurotransmitters in your brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for controlling behavior, both conscious and automatic behaviors.

Common symptoms of opioid addiction include:


-Lack of motivation

-Feeling like you don’t want to be around people or in places that you used to

-Loss of interest in things that were once enjoyable

-Neglecting responsibilities

-Lying about your actions

-Hiding activities  

Why Do People Want Opioids?

There are a variety of reasons why someone may seek out an opioid prescription. These include:

-Medical reasons (pain)

-Recreational use

-To induce euphoria

Drugs of this nature are often sought out because of the pleasure they bring or because people think they can’t get addicted to them. However, these beliefs are false, and opioid addiction is common. The longer you take opioids and the higher your dosage, the higher your risk of becoming addicted.

Legal Cases About Opioids

An attorney will review your case and determine if there is reasonable cause to suspect that you committed a crime related to controlled substances. If this is the case, they can issue a subpoena for your medical records. The subpoena will be issued by the U.S District Attorney’s Office if it is an interstate offense (meaning something occurred in another state or crossed state lines), and will be issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the district where the alleged crime occurred if it is an intrastate offense (meaning something occurred in that particular state).  

If doctor shopping was involved, then your doctor may also be subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. The subpoena for your doctor can come from either the U.S. Attorney’s Office or a local district attorney’s office, depending on it being an interstate or intrastate case.