The Differences Between Opiates and Opioids
Opium has been discovered since the times of ancient civilizations. It’s been recognized for its ability to relieve pain. It’s been used to ease in early times to ease people’s pain when they sustained terminal injuries. It’s also been used for recreation, as it magnifies the pleasure people feel, so much that ancient civilizations used it for their rituals as some formulation can induce hallucinations.
Opium comes from the sap of an unripe poppy seed pod, particularly, the seed pod of the papaver somniferum species. They make a small slice on the pod to allow the sap to ooze out. The oozed out sap is then collected and dried. This is the very basic way they harvested them since ancient times and is still being used now.
Owning poppy plants is illegal in nearly everywhere in the world, except in places where the government legalizes it for the production of medicinal opium, such as for production of medical morphine. It’s legal to buy poppy seeds, as they are an ingredient in some pastries, but growing papaver somniferum is illegal.
Since the last century, development of the drug was focused more on the medicinal uses of Opium, refining them to maximize the effects and minimize the impurities. One such substance is morphine, the refined version of opium, classified as an Opiate.
What are Opioids and Opiates?
Opiates, according to the language, means it’s derived from Opium. The term often refers to the substances that are processed from organic Opium, such as morphine. Opiates are the first kind of drugs officially used for medicinal purposes, used largely on soldiers who suffered from battle injuries. Field medics would often have morphine included in their combat gear to help soldiers when the pain they experience is keeping them from moving.
These are the types of Opiates.
- Opium. Technically, the original substance is also an opiate, because it went through a process to become usable. You can say that the true original version is the plant itself. In ancient times, the extracted resin is referred to as “Milk of the Poppy”
- Morphine. The first refined version of Opium. Our brain naturally creates morphine in the form of Endorphins, short for “Endogenous Morphine.” Endorphin keeps neurons from firing or being triggered to fire, notably for pain and excitement, producing a calm, serene, and sedative effect.
- Codeine. Technically, Codeine is semisynthetic, but it’s still derived from Morphine, making it an opiate. It’s among the weaker derivatives of morphine and commonly prescribed to people suffering from mild chronic pain. Such as post surgery, injuries to muscles and bones, and pain related to spinal issues like a slipped disc.
- Heroin. Heroin’s creation had a more compassionate purpose before it became criminalized. It was first created to help soldiers and other patients suffered from morphine dependence and withdrawal, aptly named “Soldier’s Disease.” Heroin was advertised as a non-addictive version of Morphine, allowing patients to recover from the dependence.
The company went to lengths to distribute the product, even sending a free sample to addresses of people with a confirmed diagnosis of morphine dependence. Unfortunately, it backfired. Not only was Heroin more addictive, it didn’t have the same potency as Morphine, creating more opportunities for abuse.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t first restricted due to its wrongly advertised effect, but because the production plants have an unprofitable diversion of workers, which angered unions. The ban for its actual effects followed a few years after.
Opioids are technically the same as Opiates in terms of effects, administration and sometimes, composition. What sets them apart is that Opioids are synthetic.
The suffix “oid” means “resemblance,” often denoting that the object is not perfectly the same, such as the word “humanoid” which we immediately think of something that looks human, but is not human.
Opioids are of the same manner. They are created to be as close to Opium but isn’t made from natural Opium. These substances are created from base chemicals, which go through a process to create compounds that are structurally the same as Opiates.
These are the types of Opioid currently used:
- Methadone. This synthetic version is used to help people suffering from heroin or morphine addiction. It replaces Heroin entirely and is tapered off until the person is rehabilitated. Methadone makes the brain believe that it has Heroin in its system, but minuscule effects. Users may still feel that slight sensation of wellbeing, reducing anxiety, which is useful in their treatment programs
- Hydrocodone. Commonly sold under the name “Vicodin” and the go-to drug of a certain pill-popping diagnostician in the medical show “House.” The pills are designed to have a slow release, allowing doctors to treat chronic pain, whilst minimizing the euphoric effects.
- Oxycodone. Nearly identical to Hydrocodone except for the oxygen component. It’s chemically similar to codeine and shares the same effect as hydrocodone. The difference between them is that Hydrocodone is less used in the US compared to Oxycodone.
- Fentanyl. A powerful type of Opioid, arguably more potent than morphine, but with a much shorter half-life. It was made for instant relief from pain in situations that demand it, such as heavy injuries. Recently, Fentanyl was created in patch form, allowing a quick and easy application, with a slow release for longer effect duration.
Presently, Opioids became a blanket term that both cover opiates and opioids. In terms of classification, you can separate them as synthesized or extracted/refined but the effects they have are all the same, with only the formulations that vary.
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