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Opioids are a class of drugs that act in the nervous system, and they cause feelings of pleasure and pain relief. Even when opioids are no longer used medically, opioid use is characterized by a strong, compulsive urge to use opioids. Some people are more likely to become addicted than others, which is uncertain. Dependence develops over a long period of time, resulting in physical and psychological signs of withdrawal as a result. Dependence is not the same as heroin use for a lengthy time; although most people taking opioids for a long time will become dependent, only a tiny minority of those who experience the compulsive, continuing need for the drug that characterizes opioid use. Both legal and illicit opioids pose a risk of overdose when a person takes too much of the drug or opioids are mixed with other medications.
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