Jacobs Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacovigilance

The Pharmacologic Differences that Causes Opioids to be the Number One Cause of Deaths

*Bernice La France
Department Of Anesthesiology, Howard University, Washington, United States

*Corresponding Author:
Bernice La France
Department Of Anesthesiology, Howard University, Washington, United States

Published on: 2019-03-08


With the increasing prevalence of opioid related deaths in North America, there is a need to understand the pharmacologic differences that explain why opioids are the leading causes of death among individuals who consume opioids. The opioid receptors in the brain, spine, as well as the gut are responsible for the observed analgesia after the administration of the opioids. For many patients, an opioid overdose depresses the respiratory system and compromises the functioning of organs due to the greatly reduced respiration. A literature review was conducted with the purpose of identifying relevant articles that explain the pharmacologic basis of opioids. From the electronic search of articles, ten were identified as the most relevant for the literature review. In the results and discussion sections is an overview of the pharmacologic basis of opioids and an explanation of how an overdose of opioids leads to death.


Opioids; Pharmacology; Mechanisms of action; Opioid receptors; Opioid overdose


North America registers an increasing rate of opioids related deaths. The United States has registered an alarming increase of the fatal overdoses of pharmaceutical opioids. However, North America is one of the regions that have registered the highest opioids related deaths in the recent years. Specifically, North America represents the leading consumer of opioids across the globe. As expected, the region experiences the highest death rates due to opioid abuse. Notably, North America registered opioid dispensing rates of 30,540 in defined daily doses by 2014. The marketing strategies that pharmaceutical companies have adopted in North America serve as the main reason for the alarming increase of opioid related deaths and consumption. A critical analysis of the pharmacology of opioids helps in understanding why they are the leading drugs attributable for causing death in cases of overdose. Notably, opioids represent the treating treatment approach in the management of acute and chronic pain.