Individual drugs: prescription medications (morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl), heroin

Campuses across the country are feeling the impact of the opioid crisis. Opioids are a class of narcotic drugs that include heroin and prescription medications such as morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl. Use, misuse and overdose are a significant public health issue in the United States. Around 66% of the more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016 involved an opioid.

Although the majority of college students do not misuse prescription medications, recent studies have shown that nonmedical use of prescription opiates is second only to marijuana as the most common form of drug use among US college students. Use of these drugs is associated with lower school performance and increased risk behaviors.

How to Get Help

University Health & Counseling Services provides integrated health services. Clinicians with expertise in primary care, substance use disorders, and mental health work collaboratively to ensure high quality care. We offer evidence-based alcohol and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery support services to students.

To make an appointment call (216) 368-5872 or go to myhealthconnect.case.edu

For on-campus emergencies, contact CWRU Police at 216.368.3333. If you are off-campus, dial 911

Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioids can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain and are often prescribed following surgery or injury, or for health conditions such as cancer. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of prescription opioids for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain, such as back pain or osteoarthritis, despite serious risks and the lack of evidence about their long-term effectiveness.  Prescription opioids have the serious risks of addiction, abuse, and overdose.

Side Effects: The use of prescription opioids can have a number of side effects, even when taken as directed:

  • Tolerance—meaning you might need to take more of the medication for the same pain relief
  • Physical dependence—meaning you have symptoms of withdrawal when the medication is stopped
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy, and strength
  • Itching and sweating


Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States.

However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally-made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.


Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive opioid drug. A heroin overdose can cause slow and shallow breathing, coma, and death. People often use heroin along with other drugs or alcohol. This practice is especially dangerous because it increases the risk of overdose. Heroin is typically injected but is also smoked and snorted. When people inject heroin, they are at risk of serious, long-term viral infections such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and Hepatitis B, as well as bacterial infections of the skin, bloodstream, and heart.

More help and information is available at hhs.gov/opioids or by calling the national helpline at 800.662.4357.