Opioids are a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy. They are primarily used as analgesics (pain relief).
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Along with the pain relief, most opioids give a feeling of euphoria and a degree of sedation. These side effects are what make them popular as drugs of abuse.
Other effects are cough suppression and constipation - people with an opioid addiction usually find drugs to treat these ailments as well.
Narcotics v Opioids
Along with drugs derived directly from the opium poppy, the term "opioid" has come to refer to other, synthetic pain medications that act on the same receptors in the body and cause many of the same effects. While not strictly accurate, synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs will sometimes be referred to as opiates. They are more properly called narcotics, from the root narko, meaning sleep, numbness, or stupor.