All opioids have similar chemical nature and belong to the same group of drugs. The chemicals of these drugs can be produced in two ways: natural and synthetic. In the first case, chemicals are derived from the opium plant, and in the other one, they are synthesized in the laboratory.
Opioids are the substances that act on opioid receptors that are distributed in the brain, digestive tract and the spinal cord. They are used for treatment of moderate to severe pain. These medications act by binding to opioid receptors located in the spinal cord, brain and other areas of the body. This is how they affect sending of pain messages to the brain, which, eventually, reduces feelings of pain.
Types of Opioids
There are several types of opioids, and they include the following:
Naturally Occurring Opioids
Alkaloids are naturally occurring opioids that can be found in the resin of the poppy plant, opium bulbs and other places. They consist of different substances, including morphine, codeine and thebaine. It is also possible to find naturally occurring opioids in the leaves of plants, for instance, the Mytragyna speciose. Salvinorin A, an alkaloid known for a possibility to induce psychedelic effects, is obtained from the Salvia divinorum plant.
Opioids Produced by the Body
The following are endogenous opioids produced by the body:
They are synthesized in laboratories, thanks to the use of natural opioids. The following ones belong to the semisynthetic type:
- Buprenorphine and others.
These opioids are synthesized in the laboratory. Usually, they are used for anesthesia, treatment of drug dependence and as a pain reliever. The following medications belong to synthetic opioids:
Also, there are opioid-like agents, such as tapentadol and tramadol. They do not have a chemical structure similar to opioids but have some affinity to the opioid receptor, which allows using them for relieving pain. There are four chemical classes of opioids:
- Typical opioids;
- Diphenylheptanes, a parent compound of methadol and methadone series of opioid analgesics;
- Benzomorphans, a chemical compound and base for different drugs that are able to act on the sigma and opioid receptors;
- Phenylpiperidines, a chemical compound with a phenyl moiety attached to piperidine. Medications from this class of drugs have a range of pharmacological effects, including morphine-like activity and other CNS effects.
Typical opioids include the 6-hydroxyl group, such as:
- Codeine and others.