What are Opiates?

In around the year 4,000 BCE an inspired Sumerian writer picked up the pen…or chisel…or whatever they used to write.  Hul Gil is what he inscribed referring to the opium poppy plant.  Translation, the Joy Plant.  In the 1800’s this plant would finally be experimented and synthesized into two very familiar substances: morphine and codeine.  

Modern opiates are any kind of drug developed using opium as the base substance.  Today opiates can take many forms.  Some are created as legal pharmaceuticals, and others are created or used illegally.  Below are some common lists of both.

Pharmaceutical Opiates

  1. Hydrocodone – This semisynthetic drug is the most prescribed opiate medication in America.  The drug is used to relieve moderate and severe pain and is usually supplemented with lighter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen.
  2. Oxycodone – This semi-synthetic drug is also a pain suppressor for moderate to severe pain.  This drug is the most common opiate sold and used illegally on the streets.  Oxycodone is responsible for many overdoses.
  3. Codeine – Is chemically enhanced morphine.  Like all opiates, it relieves pain.  Codeine is also prescribed as a cough suppressant.
  4. Methadone – This synthetic drug produces a euphoric feeling less intense than heroine.  Methadone can relieve pain, but is most widely used as a treatment for heroin addictions.  Methadone is considered by experts to be non-addictive.
  5. Fentanyl – This synthetic drug dwarfs the potency of morphine.  This drug is so potent that it is usually administered via skin patch, or other slow delivery system.  Fentanyl is usually prescribed to those suffering severe chronic pain.
  6. Meperidine – This synthetic drug acts similarly to morphine, but the effects do not last as long.  This drug is mostly administered to pre-anesthesia and post-op patients.

Illegal Opiates   

  1. Opium – Pure opium is difficult to obtain on the streets, but not impossible.  In the 18th and 19th century China had such a severe opium problem that is was considered an epidemic.  Through British aid, China finally overcame it.  In modern America, opium is mostly combined with other drugs to enhance their effects.    
  2. Heroine –  This is the most common street synthetic derived from the opium plant.  Heroin use is on the rise and so are overdoses.  Heroine is considered cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opiates.  Heroine has no medical value.
  3. Abused Prescriptions –  Any pharmaceutical opiate that is misused, or obtained with the intent to sell is considered an illegal use.  Most prescription opiates produce similar euphoric effects to street drugs.  They are highly sought after on the black market.



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