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Vegan-friendly Opioids for Pain Control

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

What are Opioids?

Opiate analgesics are a class of medications that are derived from the opium poppy plant. Commercially available opioids include natural opiates such as morphine and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Opioids are generally safe when they are taken as prescribed by a healthcare provider and used over a short period of time.

Types of Pain Treated with Opioids

Opioids are usually prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain in different settings. Examples of pain conditions where opioids may be prescribed include:

Acute Pain

Pain that lasts for a short period of time and has a known cause, such as surgery, infection, injury, or trauma.

Chronic Pain

Pain that lasts 3 months or more and can be caused by a health condition, medical treatment, inflammation, or unknown reasons.

Terminal Illness

Pain that stems from advanced stages of diseases, such as cancer.

How Are Opioids Prescribed?

Prescribers will work closely with patients to assess their pain, goals for improvement, benefits, and risks before initiating certain therapies. There are many pain assessment tools in place, but the most commonly used is a Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) that ranges from 0 to 10, with 0 for no pain and 10 for maximum pain. The choice of opioids will vary depending on the type and severity of pain to safely reduce pain and increase the ability to perform daily activities.

Once a medication and treatment plan is determined, morphine milligram equivalent (MME) dosages are utilized to assess the overdose potential of a specific opioid at a given time. MME serves as a valuable tool for comparing the strengths of different opioids in relation to morphine. The risk of overdose and death increases with higher daily MME dosages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dosages greater than or equal to 50 MME/day increase the risk of overdose by at least two-fold compared to dosages at or below 20 MME/day.

Generally, pain management regimens above 90 MME/day do not yield additional pain reduction benefits without significantly increasing the patient's risk for overdose and death.

What Are the Common Side Effects of Opioids?

Common Side Effects & Precautions

  • ​Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Constipation

  • Headache

  • Sedation/Somnolence

  • Nausea/Vomiting

  • Respiratory Depression

  • Tolerance/Dependence/Addiction

Taking opioids as directed by your prescriber is imperative to avoid overdose and death.

Are Opioids Animal-Free?

There are a variety of opioids available on the market from different manufacturers. Below is a list of 10 verified animal-free opioid medications.

Animal-Free Opioid Medications

Alternative Pain Relief Options:

Due to the potential side effects and risk of addiction associated with opioids, it is crucial to explore alternative pain treatment options that may carry fewer risks. Listed below are 4 verified animal-free over-the-counter options:


Opioids can be effective for pain management when used as prescribed and for a short period of time. However, it is crucial to approach opioid therapy with a thorough evaluation of the associated risks and benefits, taking into account the unique needs and goals of each patient. It is also essential to address the underlying cause of the pain to prevent its recurrence. At VeganMed, our pharmacist team has conducted extensive research to offer you a helpful guide on animal-free opioid medications. However, it is always recommended to consult with your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable pain management plan for your individual circumstances. If there are other medications that you need clarification on, please reach out to us at

Co-authored by: Marylise Koffi, Nick Sadeghi, and Frank Son


Disclaimer: The product and/or information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We do not lab test the products to confirm that they are free from animal ingredients, and it is possible that the formulation and ingredients could have changed. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product. The information provided in this post is accurate and up to date as of the date it was written. However, please note that circumstances and facts may change over time, and new information may become available that could alter the accuracy or relevance of the content. We encourage readers to verify and cross-reference any information provided here with trusted sources or consult relevant professionals for the most current and accurate updates.


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