Opioids are those drugs derived from opium or thebaine that have an effect similar to that of morphine. This type of medication is mainly divided into agonists or antagonists, however, opioids present similar effects in general terms. Then, they differ in their efficacy and side effects.
The goal of opioids is to relieve the patient’s pain. Therefore, they are indicated to reduce the intensity of the pain signals that reach the brain and affect the areas that serve to control the emotions (so they diminish the effects of a painful stimulus).
History of opioids
The history of opioids dates back to antiquity. In fact, knowledge of the effects of opium and its use for therapeutic purposes are given from the third and fourth centuries BC. Divinum opus est sedare pains , which in Spanish would be equivalent to: the relief of pain is a task of the gods. In this way, opiates were considered exceptional.
The most significant fact of the use of opium and its derivatives with therapeutic effect was in 1803 when the chemist FW Sertümer was able to isolate the main alkaloid from opium. I had created morphine
After the discovery of morphine , the scientific community began to conduct research on other similar drugs such as codeine in 1832 by Robiquet, papaverine by Merck in 1848, and so on. It was then that the use of pure alkaloids began to spread, thus replacing opium preparations.
How opioids act
Opioids always act by adhering to the proteins called opioid receptors . This type of protein can be found in the brain, in the spinal cord, the gastrointestinal tract, among others. When these substances adhere to their receptors, the perception of pain decreases, which produces the sensation of relief in the patient.
Traditional uses of opioids
Products such as morphine were marketed by the German company E. Merck. Later, in 1850 with the creation of the syringe and the hypodermic needle by Pravaz and Wood, the use of pure alkaloids began to spread and thanks to this the therapeutic benefits of morphine could be evidenced. This helped to alleviate the most terrible pains but could also lead to physical dependence in patients.
Although in the nineteenth century preparations made from opium and morphine were frequently prescribed, it was found that products such as morphine had not been able to solve their toxic and addictive problems, so the search for other semisynthetic derivatives was continued. Thus came aspirin , meperidine and methadone . All three posited as more potent agents and lacking addictive properties.
Current uses of opioids
Opioids are currently only prescribed in cases of certain severity in which they want to relieve pain to the patient. A good example of this is morphine
However, there are multiple drugs that are made from compounds that are considered opioids and that can cause addiction. Therefore it is essential not to take them for a long time and always under medical prescription.
Currently, the use of these medications is very strictly controlled by doctors; who remain alert and attentive at all times to the symptoms that may arise in the patient.