Opioids refer to any substance (naturally occurring or artificially produced) that has a morphine-like effect (or opium-like) on the brain and body. This encompasses all opiates.

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Opioids are a class of drugs that interact with opioid receptors in nerve cells in the body and brain. These drugs are chemically related. Examples include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin ), hydrocodone (Vicodin ), codeine, morphine, Pethidine (Methadone, Hydromorphone, Alfentanil, Fentanyl, Remifentanil, Sufentanil, Etorphine, codeine and many others (opioid antagonist naloxone, endorphins).

Note:- Opiate is properly limited to the natural alkaloids found in the resin of the opium poppy although some include semi-synthetic derivatives.

Each Opioid works by binding to a specific group opioid receptors (there are several groups) in the brain and tissues. Each group of opioid receptors elicits a distinct set of neurological responses, with the receptor subtypes providing even more [measurably] specific responses. These responses can be used to create a wide class of unique effect profiles – by combining different opioids.


The primary use of opioids is medically for

  • Pain relief, including anesthesia
  • Cough
  • Suppression of diarrhea and constipation
  • Treating addiction
  • Reversing an Opioid overdose
  • Suppressing cough
  • Suppressing opioid induced constipation

Opioids are also frequently used non-medically for their euphoric effects or to prevent withdrawal.


According to NIH, Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, Opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths

Basically, they become addicted. Some people find that Opioids do not relieve all of their pain while others build a tolerance to opioids over time. This requires them to increase their drug dosage to maintain the benefit, and that in turn also increases the unwanted side effects. Patients who are no longer receiving Opioids as medication sometimes turn to street drugs such as heroin.

Long-term Opioid use can cause opioid-induced hyperalgesia, which is a condition in which the patient has increased sensitivity to pain.

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