Opioids: What you should know

Source: Medscale

Opioids, also called narcotics, are a type of prescription painkiller that is used to treat pain associated with major surgery, a sprained ankle or the removal of wisdom teeth. They can also be used to treat diarrhea, compact narcotic addiction, and suppress the common cough. Because they are highly addictive, opioids should be used under the care of a doctor only. 

What Are Opioids?

The use of opioids for pain relief dates back to 3400 B.C. when they were cultivated by the Sumerians, who referred to it as “joy plant.” The Sumerians passed the plant along to the Egyptians. The first person to use opioids as a medication was Hippocrates around 400 B.C. 

Although the term “narcotic” depicts a negative reputation that is often associated with illegal drugs, it is also a standard term in medicine. An opioid is used to relieve and treat pain. It can only be prescribed by a doctor. Each narcotic differs in terms of their ingredients, dosage forms, cost, and strengths. Available forms include capsules, tablets, and liquids, as well as in the form of a patch or an injection. 

Primary Drugs

The following is a list of single-agent opioids available in the United States:

  • Alfentanil
  • Buprenorphine injectable
  • Buprenorphine transdermal
  • Butorphanol nasal
  • Codeine sulfate
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Levorphanol
  • Meperidine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Morphine liposomal
  • Nalbuphine
  • Opium Tincture
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Pentazocine
  • Sufentanil 
  • Tramadol

This is a list of combination agents in the United States:

  • Belladonna alkaloids/opium 
  • Aspirin/butalbital/caffeine/codeine 
  • Acetaminophen/butalbital/caffeine/codeine 
  • Buprenorphine/naloxone
  • Acetaminophen/oxycodone 
  • Ibuprofen/oxycodone 
  • Hydrocodone/ibuprofen 
  • Acetaminophen/pentazocine
  • Acetaminophen/hydrocodone 
  • Acetaminophen/caffeine/dihydrocodeine 
  • Acetaminophen/tramadol 
  • Naloxone/pentazocine 
  • Morphine sulfate/naltrexone 
  • Aspirin/oxycodone 
  • Acetaminophen/codeine 
  • Aspirin/caffeine/dihydrocodeine 

How Do They Work?

Opioids work by reducing pain signals by binding to receptors in the brain and other areas of the body called opioid receptors. The four types of opioid receptors are Kappa, Delta, Mu, and Opioid Receptor Like-1 (ORL1). Opioid receptors work by either opening up potassium channels or by blocking them as well as the release of neurotransmitters such as substance P that are responsible for the sensation of pain.

What Kind Of Pain Does An Opioid Treat?