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What Does "Opioid Naive" Mean?

The term opioid naive means, quite simply, that a person is not used to taking opioid medications. A person is considered opioid tolerant when he or she can handle doses that are potentially dangerous to the average person. Whether someone is naive or tolerant, however, depends on a variety of factors, which is why it's important to discuss your unique medication use and history with your healthcare provider.


Are You Opioid Naive?

Have you seen those warnings on certain pain medications that advise against using the drugs in opioid-naive people? What, exactly, does that mean? Taken literally, being opioid naive might mean you are clueless or overly innocent about opioid medications.
However, this strange phrase is actually a medical term with a specific -- and very important -- meaning. Keep reading for information about what it means to be opioid naive or, on the flip side, opioid tolerant, and what that might mean for your pain control options.

First Things First

If you are opioid naive, you are unaccustomed to taking opioid medications. But, what, exactly, are opioids? They are a group of narcotic medications (such as morphine and other similar drugs) typically used to treat pain. Many opioids are chemically similar to morphine, which is often considered to be the "standard" opioid medication.
However, all opioids, even the ones that aren't similar to morphine, have a very important feature in common: They all stimulate opioid receptors in the body. As a result, they relieve pain, cause drowsiness, slow down the digestive tract, and cause a number of other predictable effects in the body.
Some opioids fully stimulate opioid receptors, while others partially stimulate them. Some have different effects on different types of opioid receptors. These differences, along with other factors, account for the differences among the various opioid medications.
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