WKSU's Opioid FAQ

Jan 16, 2017

What is an opioid?
An opioid is one of a family of compounds that mimics the action of opium by acting on pain receptors and the brain and central nervous system, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   They can be naturally derived (opium comes from poppies) or they can be synthetic (for example, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet or carfentanil). 

How do they work?
A series of receptors in the central nervous system respond to endorphins, heroin and synthetic analogs. Opiods attach themselves to the receptors, including the mu receptors, which are responsible for opioids’ pleasurable effects and ability to relieve pain.

What is the difference between opioids and opiates?
Opioids and opiates are essentially the same.  Dictionary.com defines opiate as a drug containing opium or its derivatives.  It defines opioid as an opium-like substance, group of natural substances such as endorphins produced by the body in response to pain, or any of several synthetic compounds having effects similar to natural opium alkaloids and their derivatives.   

What is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid which comes from morphine, which is extracted from the seed pod of the Asian poppy plant.

What is a synthetic opioid?
These are any of the compounds developed by pharmaceutical companies to mimic the effects of morphine, a naturally occuring opioid.

Have a question about Opioids?  Email us at news@wksu.org.