Synthetic Opioids

Definition - What does Synthetic Opioids mean?

Synthetic opioids are a narcotic drug that mimic the pain relief of natural opiates. Natural opiates contain analgesic substances known as alkaloids that are harvested from the resin of the opium poppy. These alkaloids may also be obtained from sources other than opium poppies. Drugs manufactured using opium-like alkaloids are called semi-synthetic opioids.

Synthetic opioids are manufactured using chemicals other than opium-related alkaloids. The effect of these drugs is similar to that of natural opiates but the chemical composition is different. Methadone and fentanyl are examples of synthetic opioids.

WorkplaceTesting explains Synthetic Opioids

Synthetic opioids work by binding to opiod receptors in the body. These receptors are located not only in the brain, but also in the spine and other parts of the body. Opioids reduce the brain's perception of and reaction to pain. These drugs also increase the body's pain tolerance.

While highly beneficial for the treatment of chronic pain and pain for which other medications have proved ineffective, synthetic opioids may cause addiction or dependence. Users may experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking a prescribed synthetic opioid. In addition, users may develop a tolerance to the drug, causing them to need a higher dosage over time for effective pain relief.

Between 2001 and 2014, the National Institute on Drug Abuse report a 3.4-fold increase in the number of deaths caused by prescription opioid drugs. The total number of deaths from prescription opioid overdoses in 2014 exceed 18,000.

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