Opioid Facts

Opioids are derived from the Papaver somniferum, commonly known as the opium poppy plant.




plural noun: opioids

a compound resembling opium in addictive properties or physiological effects.

Harm reduction is reducing the harms associated with public health concerns.

Forms of  Opioids

Opioids are a group of drugs that are primarily used to manage pain. However, they also have other applications, such as treating coughing and being used during surgery. Below are some of the most common forms of opioids along with a few of the brand names.


(Actavis®, Quagen®)

is an opioid pain reliever used to treat mild to moderately severe pain. It is also used, usually in combination with other medications, to reduce coughing.


(Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®)

is an analgesic with a potency at least 80 times that of morphine. Fentanyl and its derivatives are used as anesthetics and analgesics in both human and veterinary medicine.


also known as diacetylmorphine and diamorphine among other names, is an opioid used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects.



is a morphinane-like compound that is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from codeine.


(Kadian®, Avinza®)

Morphine is a morphinane alkaloid that is a highly potent opiate analgesic psychoactive drug.


(OxyContin®, Percocet®)

Oxycodone is a semisynthetic, moderately potent, orally available opioid that is widely used for acute or chronic management of moderate or moderately severe pain.

The stronger the drugs, the harder it is to revive a person.

Chemical Reactions

Opioids bind to and activate opioid receptors on cells . These cells are located throughout the brain, spinal cord, and other organs in the body. Prescription opioids and heroin are chemically similar and can produce a similar euphoric experience.

How do opioids work?

Action in the brain: Opioids bind to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking the perception of pain and increasing the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure.

Psychological Effects

Opioids attach to these receptors, they block pain signals sent from the brain to the body and release large amounts of dopamine throughout the body affecting the feelings of pain and pleasure. Opioids can relieve pain while inducing a euphoric feeling.

Common Side Effects

It’s possible to experience nausea, vomiting, constipation, and drowsiness when using opioids.

Continued use can lead to physical dependence and addiction, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped. 

Opioid overdose can be life-threatening and is a growing public health concern. Symptoms of opioid overdose include shallow breathing, blue lips and nails, and extreme drowsiness.


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Last updated February 7th, 2023.