Opioid-based pain medications, as their name suggests, are medications that are derived from Opium.  Opium is the dried latex this is obtained from the opium poppy, and this is a natural substance.  Opium contains several different compounds, including morphine, codeine, thebaine, papaverine, and noscapine.  The use of opium for medicinal purposes dates back to the Neolithic age (approximately 4200 BCE).

Opioid-based pain medications (opioids) work by activating the Mu-opioid receptor primarily located in the central nervous system or peripheral nervous system.  Opioids work by decreasing the perception of pain that the patient feels.  Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, sedation, respiratory depression, constipation, itching (pruritus), and euphoria.  Opioid medications can also be highly addictive and have withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly.   Opioid medications are sometimes referred to as narcotics, although that is technically incorrect.  Narcotics refers to illegal medications.  Common opioid medications include Hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin, Lortab), Oxycodone (Percocet, Oxycontin), Morphine, Dilaudid, Methadone, and Fentanyl.

Morphine is a natural chemical that is the main component of opium, making up about 12% of natural opium.  Morphine was first isolated by German scientist Friedrich Sertürner in 1804 and is believed to be the first active pharmaceutical purified from a plant source.  He named the drug morphine after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams.  Believe it or not, morphine was first marketed by Merck in 1827 as a treatment for alcohol addiction.