What are opioids?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (https://www.drugabuse.gov), opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids, such as morphine and codeine, are made from the opium poppy plant directly while synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl or carfentanil, are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure.

Previously, opiates referred to the natural forms of the drug and opioids was reserved for the synthetics. As time has gone on, the distinction has blurred and the term opioids is used to designate the class of drugs in its entirety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the more common opioids and their origins. Categories of opioids include:

• Natural opioid pain relievers, including morphine and codeine;

• Semi-synthetic opioid pain relievers, including drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone;

• Methadone, a synthetic opioid;

• Synthetic opioid pain relievers, other than methadone, including drugs such as tramadol and fentanyl; and

• Opioid pain relievers, commonly referred to as prescription opioids, medications used to treat moderate to severe pain in some patients.