Uses and Classification for Opioids


Opiates/ Opioids are a class of analgesic drug indicated for patients in acute or chronic pain. It was first derived from opium, the juice secreted by the poppy. Opioids are generally used in cases where other pain management approaches have been unsuccessful. This is due to the strong habit-forming aspects of the medication, its side effects, and its potential for abuse. 

Historically, Opiates and Opioids were differentiated based on how they were obtained; opiates referred to naturally occurring alkaloids derived from opium such as morphine and codeine, whereas opioids referred to synthetic drugs that bind to opiate receptors such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl. However, the nomenclature has since relaxed and the term “opioid” is used to refer to both the natural and synthetic substances. This module will use the term opioids.

Naming Conventions

Opioids do not have a set naming convention. Opioids have a number of different suffixes

  • -fentanil - alfentanil, ramifentanil, sufentanil. Note that fentanyl is spelled differently.
  • -adol - tramadol, tapentadol.
  • -one - oxycodone, methadone, normethadone, hydromorphone, hydrocodone.
  • -ine - morphine, codeine, meperidine, buprenorphine, nalbuphine, pentazocine.


Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties, online version (CPS). Opioids. Last Revised October 2017. © Canadian Pharmacists Association, 2015. All rights reserved.

Lilley, L.L., 2017. Pharmacology for Canadian Healthcare Practice Ed). Toronto, ON: Elsevier Canada.

Pattison, K.T., 2008; Opioids and the control of respiration, British Journal of Anesthesia,100(6):747-758. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/580944.

Activities Status