What are opioid medications?
Opioids and their derivatives have been used for centuries for their analgesic (pain relief) effects. Originally derived from the Asian poppy, opium has been consumed in tonics, smoked in opium dens and injected in the form of morphine and heroin. Today’s narcotic analgesic medications are derived from opium or from its synthetic cousins. These medications are prescribed by physicians for pain, nausea, diarrhea and coughing. Medications that fall within this class of drugs include morphine, codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin®), propoxyphene (Darvon®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), meperidine (Demerol®) and diphenoxylate (Lomotil®). How do these medications work? Narcotics provide relief from pain by attaching to specific opioid/pain receptors located in the brain, spinal cord and the gastrointestinal tract. The primary action of these drugs is to block the transmission of pain messages to the brain. Narcotics also produce euphoria or a high by dramatically increasing th