Type of Opioids, Their Uses and Side Effects

172468400_80_80Opioids are drugs that many people cannot do without. They are essential in hospitals as they are the most effective drugs that can be used to aid the pain patients. Diseases such as cancer are synonymous to pain and in some situations going through the treatments will be very painful and therefore there is need for a drug that will work in different ways to curb the pain that may be disabling to the patient. Chronic pain in itself presents a torture to the patient and without pain relievers, such pain may cripple a patient. The opioids are not news to many years; people know them some as dangerous drugs that should never have been created in the first place. While to many they has become very valuable essentials that they cannot survive without- the pain patients (and even addicts). However, people are not always informed about the given types of opioids.  The opioids are mostly classified according to their source. There are opioids that are naturally extracted from the poppy plant and used without designing or any other further processing. These will fall under natural opioids.  Opioids may be extracted from the poppy plant but then is further processed. This group is referred to use semi-synthetic opioids while there are some that are some opioids that are processed in the labs. The opioids falling in this group are known as synthetic opioids.

The naturally sourced opioids

The natural opioids are those that are naturally available from the poppy plant. After extraction they are not further processed in a manner that will deplete their contents. Some of these natural opioids are used as pain relievers in hospitals.

Here are examples of the opioids;


Morphine is naturally extracted from poppy plant. It is the most dominant opiate in the poppy plant. It was the first active ingredient that was extracted from the poppy plant. Apart from morphine there are also other alkanoids of different types that are found in the opium. The major source of morphine is a chemical extraction from opium.

Despite its use in hospitals for pain relief in patients with intense pain, morphine has a high potential of addiction, tolerance and psychological dependence which develops very rapidly. However psychological dependence takes a little bit longer to develop and may take several months. With morphine, tolerance to respiratory depression and euphoria develops more rapidly than tolerance to analgesia.


Thebaine is naturally available in small quantities in opium. It is also known as Paramorphine. It is white, crystalline, slightly water-soluble and poisonous alkaloid.  The Thebaine-Constituent of Raw-Opium is normally between 0.2% and 1.5%. However higher amounts have been reported. It is not used for therapeutic or recreational purposes, but is converted industrially into a variety of compounds such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, nalbuphine, naloxone, naltrexone, buprenorphine and etorphine.

In the past thabaine was believed to have no properties that were like those of morphine. However there are many studies that have found that thebaine has a considerable potential for dependence both psychological and physical when used in large doses for a long period of time.


Naturally extracted from the poppy plant, codeine is used in hospitals as a narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant. It functions similar to morphine and hydrocodone. Moreover, when taken a small amount of codeine is converted to morphine in the body. However the mechanism of action of codeine is not known but just like morphine, codeine binds to opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are important for transmitting the sensation of pain throughout the body and brain. Codeine increases tolerance to pain, decreasing discomfort, but the pain still is apparent to the patient. Despite its ability to suppress coughs and enable pain tolerance, it has the following side effects, noisy breathing, sighing, slow breathing with long pauses between breaths, drowsiness and blue colored lips.

Semi-synthetic opioids

This is a group of drugs that are naturally extracted from the poppy plant but are further processed before they are used. An example is heroine.


Comes from the opium poppy but is further processed. When pure it is a white powder that has a bad taste. Some heroin is dark brown, and black tar heroin is either sticky or hard and looks like roofing tar. It has pain relieving properties. Unlike most pain relieving narcotics that are accepted in most states when prescribed by doctors, heroin is illegal in most countries basically because it is highly addictive and has quite grave side effects. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include; sleeplessness, bad chills and sweats, muscle pain, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Synthetic opioids

These are opioids that are made in laboratories. They include;


Methadone is used as a pain reliever and as part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs and is only available from certified pharmacies. This drug helps reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms that are suffered by heroin addicts when they stop using heroin. Some of its side effects include; rapid heart rhythm, severe dizziness and chest pain among others.


This is an FDA approved drug for use in pain relief as well as suppressing coughs. This drug is a strong pain reliever and works better for both opioidsmoderate and severe pain. It increases tolerance to pain hence eliminating discomfort. It also causes sedation. May cause very severe side effects when mixed with alcohol. Cases of death have been reported.


Fentanyl is an opioid medication that is used for anesthesia to help prevent pain after surgery or any other medical procedure that may result in moderate or severe pain. It is injected in the muscle or in the vain through IV. It is mostly used before surgery. Side effects include severe dizziness, drowsiness and impaired reactions.

Finally, you need more information to stay away from dependence on alcohol and drugs as these have crippled societies and that is why here at AWAREmed we are dedicated to finding the best solutions to addiction and dependence on substances. Dr. Dalal Akoury (MD) is always in the mood of helping any patient to be addiction free. Do not hesitate to call on her for help in managing any sort of chronic pain or any type of addiction as well as other diseases.

Type of Opioids, Their Uses and Side Effects