Butelman, Eduardo Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases, Rockefeller University, New York, New York.
Last reviewed:March 2021
- Opioid mechanisms
- Mu-opioid receptors
- Delta-opioid receptors
- Kappa-opioid receptors
- Opioid use disorders
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Any synthetic or semisynthetic organic chemical compound that resembles opium in its pharmacological action to reduce pain. An opioid is an organic chemical compound, created synthetically or semisynthetically, that duplicates the analgesic (pain-reducing) effects of naturally occurring opiates, such as opium, in mammals. Opioids act as analgesics by binding opioid receptors found on nerve cells in the brain and throughout the body. Notable opioids include morphine (from the opium poppy), heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl (see illustration). Because of the powerful analgesic effects of opioids, these compounds are used as drugs in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Opioids also can have specific neurological and behavioral effects, causing euphoria and reward. Therefore, they have considerable abuse potential, as well as potential to cause morbidity and mortality. Overdose with an opioid is risky as a result of the respiratory depressant effects of opioid compounds. See also: Addiction and addictive disorders; Analgesic; Incentive-sensitization disease model of addiction; Morphine alkaloids; Narcotic; Opiate; Pain; Pharmaceutical chemistry; Pharmacology
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