Opioids are a type of drug created from opium poppies. They work by connecting to opioid receptors in the brain and spine, blocking the transmission of pain signals. That makes them extremely effective pain relievers and numerous hospitals regularly use opioid medication. Opioids can be addictive, however, and withdrawal symptoms are often quite pronounced. They should only be administered by a qualified physician, and then only to alleviate a specific condition.
Morphine is often the go-to opioid for the treatment of pain relief. It is delivered in liquid, capsule or suppository form, timed either for immediate release or a slower release that dulls the pain more gradually. Immediate release doses are usually preferable because they let the doctor adjust the dosage more readily. Morphine should never be taken with alcohol, nor should it be used with patients who have breathing disorders, low blood pressure or a history of mental illness.
Codeine is a mild type of opioid, which makes it safer to use in a wider array of conditions. Doctors usually turn to it when non-opioid medication doesn't work before moving on to stronger types of opioids. It's available by prescription only and should never be taken in doses other than that recommended by the doctor. Side effects include euphoria, light-headedness and vomiting; withdrawal, while not as severe as heavier opioids, can still be quite unpleasant.
Methadone works to control pain in the nerves, and is often used to help addicts detox from other opium-based drugs such as heroin. Its pain-relieving abilities last much longer than heroin, which means that it can take the edge off of withdrawal symptoms without putting large amounts of the drug in the patient's system. It can be administered as caplets, injections, drinkable liquids or suppositories. Because it can become addictive itself if it isn't monitored, patients taking it should rigidly stick to their prescription and remain in close contact with their physician at all times while they are on methadone.
Buprenorphine typically comes in patch form, which makes it helpful for patients who can't swallow pills or liquids readily. Like methadone, it is long-lasting, meaning that it can control pain without huge amounts being in the patient's system. The patches typically take time to act, so doctors may supplement it with other types of pain relievers in the short term.
Tramadol usually comes in tablet form, and like codeine is a much milder type of opioid than others. A prescription is required to use it, but it has proven effective in relieving mild to moderate pain. Slow-release tablets are available, in which case the doctor make give you a small amount of immediate-release tramadol to treat the pain right away. Like other opioids, it should never be taken with alcohol, nor should you take it if you are using sedatives, antidepressants or other types of opioids.