An opioid medication, also called a narcotic, is a controlled drug. These drugs are controlled because of their high potential of abuse and addiction. People who are experiencing pain who need opioids for relief should not have difficulty obtaining them, however, because of problems historically with addictions and diversion of medications, some doctors are reluctant to prescribe opioids.
Opioids differ from other, non-controlled, pain medications because of their action. The medications work by blocking the sense of pain from reaching the brain, while other pain medications reduce swelling, for example.