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The strength with which a drug binds to its receptor is termed its affinity. The degree to which a drug activates its receptors is termed its intrinsic activity. Affinity for a receptor and activation of the receptor are two different qualities of a drug. A drug can have high affinity for a receptor but not activate the receptor (e.g., an antagonist). Mu opioid agonists, partial agonists, and antagonists can vary in their affinity.

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