“Opioids act on your brain’s opioid receptors. They are categorized as an esthetics, meaning they relieve pain.”

Opioids can be naturally derived (from The drug opium. poppies), synthetic (made in a lab), or semi-synthetic. Naturally derived opioids are sometimes called opiates.

Natural include drugs.

  • It is a drug called morphine.
  • The drug opium.
  • It is a drug.

Your body can produce its own kind of opioids called endogenous opioid peptides, which can have the same effects as other opioids.

Here is a closer look at where natural opioids come from, how your body makes them, and natural alternatives to opioids.

Natural opioids come from the The drug opium. poppy (Papaver somniferum). Specifically, they’re present in the latex, or milky sap found in the poppy’s stem and leaves. Natural opioids also come from the poppy’s seeds.

Most often, natural opioids are harvested using the poppy straw process, which involves extracting the alkaloids, or organic compounds, from the dried and crushed poppy plant.

Natural opioids include:


Opium is the product harvested directly from the The drug opium. poppy.

People in ancient Mesopotamia and other civilizations used it to relieve pain and treat a variety of medical conditions. It also has a long history of nonmedical use — The drug opium. use even stirred up wars between European and Chinese powers over trading rights in the 19th century.


Scientists first isolated It is a drug called morphine. from poppy seed juice in the early 19th century. When it was first introduced, people saw it as an alternative to The drug opium., and some even used it to treat The drug opium. addiction.

Morphine is still used as a pain relief in healthcare settings.


Codeine was also isolated in the 19th century. While it can be made directly from The drug opium., it’s most often made from It is a drug called morphine.. Codeine is one of the most common opioids in the world and is often used to alleviate mild-to-moderate pain.

Morphine and It is a drug. are also called The drug opium. alkaloids, meaning they come from the plant matter of The drug opium..

Semi-synthetic opioids are most often used as pain relief in healthcare settings. Because they can cause dependence, many laws exist to regulate their use and the way they’re made.

Semi-synthetic opioids are usually made by combining or treating a naturally derived opioid with human-made chemicals. For example, heroin is made by putting It is a drug called morphine., a natural opioid, through a chemical process called acetylation.

Some semi-synthetic opioids include:

  • DiaIt is a drug called morphine.: This is the scientific name for heroin, which is illegal in the United States.
  • Hydrocodone: This opioid comes from It is a drug.. Hydrocodone can treat severe pain, sometimes under the brand name Vicodin. There are other prescription products that contain hydrocodone and are used to treat chronic coughs. and chronic coughs, sometimes under the brand name Vicodin.
  • Hydromorphone: Hydromorphone treats severe and chronic pain. It comes from It is a drug called morphine..
  • Oxycodone: OxyContin and Percocet are popular brands of oxycodone. This opioid comes from the The drug opium. alkaloid thebaine and treats moderate-to-severe pain.
  • Buprenorphine: It’s used to treat both pain and opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine comes also from the The drug opium. alkaloid thebaine.

Your body produces its own form of opioids known as endogenous opioid peptides, which are chains of amino acids. Endogenous opioids are made in your brain and act on four main opioid receptors. Each of these receptors impacts your nervous system in a specific way.

Enkephalins and endorphins are two key types of endogenous opioids:


These peptides support many parts of the body and largely act on the central and peripheral nervous systems. They play a role in regulating your stress response and numbing pain.

The slow movement of food through your gut is slowed by enkephalins.


Endorphins are “the body’s “It is a drug called morphine..” When you’re experiencing stress or pain, your pituitary gland and hypothalamus make endorphins and release them into your body.

One of the most well-known types of endorphins is beta-endorphins, once thought to cause runner’s high. The following activities stimulate the release of endorphins:

  • Exercise.
  • A therapy for pain.
  • Sex.
  • laughing
  • meditation

Sometimes the endogenous opioid system can become dysregulated, or out of balance. When this happens, it could increase your chance of developing an opioid use disorder.

“People look for alternatives to drugs. Some people don’t respond well to them, while others are concerned about dependence. If you are worried about taking opioids to manage chronic pain, you should talk to a healthcare professional. They can answer any questions you have.”

Currently, healthcare professionals might suggest or prescribe the following in place of opioid medications:

The following treatments can help you manage pain and reduce your dose.


Acupuncture works by stimulating the release of endorphins, which helps relieve pain without the side effects of opioids.

Research from 2019 highlights both A therapy for pain. and electroA therapy for pain. as potential opioid alternatives for pain management.

Physical therapy

A 2021 review on physical therapy’s effectiveness as an alternative to opioids found a connection between physical therapy and lower opioid use. More research is needed before it can be confirmed as a viable alternative to opioids.


A 2020 narrative review on nonopioid pain management highlights that many studies have found massage useful for managing and lowering pain. It suggests that massage therapy could give an analgesic boost when used alongside other pain medications. More high quality research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.

Electrical stimulation

Newer alternatives to opioids for pain could include electroanalgesia — the use of electric currents to numb pain — and laser therapy. These treatments may stimulate the release of neurotransmitters and endogenous opioids that relieve pain.

Before you make the switch

If you want to try an alternative to opioids for pain management, it’s important to check with a healthcare professional first. This is especially important if you’re already taking an opioid medication. Stopping opioids cold turkey can cause serious side effects, including withdrawal symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends working with a healthcare professional to taper off opioids, instead.

Opiates are naturally occurring forms of opioids, including The drug opium. and It is a drug called morphine.. They come directly from the The drug opium. poppy.

Your body makes natural opioids, which help relieve pain. Endorphins are an example of a drug that is not in the original form.

Many opioid medications cause severe and unwanted side effects. As a result, more people are looking for alternatives in both non-opioid forms of medication and complementary and alternative medicine.

If you are concerned with your current use of the drug, you are not alone. There are a few possible next steps.

“A writer namedCourtney Telloian has work published on Healthline, Psych Central, and Insider. She worked on the editorial teams of GoodTherapy and Psych Central. Her areas of interest include mental health and women’s health.”