Here we review the use of combinatorial libraries in opioid receptor assays. Following a brief description of the history of the combinatorial field, methods for the generation of synthetic libraries and the deconvolution of mixture-based libraries are presented. Case studies involving opioid assays used to demonstrate the viability of combinatorial libraries are described. The identification of new opioid peptides from combinatorial libraries is reviewed. The peptides found are composed of L- amino acids, D-amino acids, or L-, D-, and unnatural amino acids, and range from tetrapeptides to decapeptides. Likewise, new opioid compounds identified from peptidomimetic libraries, such as peptoids and alkylated dipeptides, and those identified from acyclic (e.g., polyamine, urea) and heterocyclic (e.g., bicyclic guanidine) libraries, are reviewed. (C) 2000 John Wiley and Sons, Inc.