Opiates are a class of narcotics that derive from the opium poppy. They may be natural derivations of opium or drugs that have been synthesized from natural opiates (which are correctly termed synthetic or semi-synthetic opioids, despite being frequently referred to as “opiates”). In the popular mind, these drugs are most commonly associated with pharmaceutical painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, or with illicit street drugs such as heroin.
Opium has been used for both medical and recreational purposes for millennia. In fact, it was once available for consumption as a tonic, much like alcohol. Recreational use of opium or opiates began to be criminalized in the early 1900s, while the synthesis of opioids for medical purposes took off soon after. Since the 1990s, addiction to both street and pharmaceutical opiates has exploded and become one of the most urgent public health concerns.
Different Types of Opiates
Naturally occurring chemicals found in the opium poppy, such as:
Esters of Morphine
Slightly natural modifications of pure morphine that are converted into morphine upon being consumed. These include:
- Diacetylmorphine/Morphine Diacetate (Heroin)
- Desomorphine (Krokodil)
Partially synthesized from natural opiates or morphine esters, such as:
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Roxicodone)
- Oxymorphone (Opana)
Wholly synthesized from natural opiates or morphine esters, such as:
- Tramadol (Ultram)