Opiates are a group of drugs produced from naturally occurring alkaloids found in the opium poppy Papaver somniferum. They have similar effects to opium and act by stimulating opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system. Morphine and codeine are both derived from the opium poppy.
The terms opiate and opioid are often used interchangeably; however opioids are not derived from natural opium, although they do also act on the opioid receptors in the body.
Opiates depress the nervous system to slow body functions in order to reduce physical and psychological pain. They are used to treat pain that does not respond to standard painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol. When used regularly they can be highly addictive and are therefore only intended to be used for a limited period of time.
A process of acetylation converts morphine present in the latex into diacetylmorphine. When produced illicitly the drug is called heroin. The manufacture of heroin also leads to the formation of acetyl-codeine (by acetylation of the codeine present in the latex). Diamorphine is pharmaceutical-grade heroin (i.e. pure diacetylmorphine). Diamorphine is a powerful analgesic commonly used to relieve the pain of for example, major surgery and cancer.
- Pin point pupils
- Depression of heart rate and respiration
- Suppression of cough reflex
- Dizziness or fainting
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory depression
- Respiratory arrest
- Blood borne infection from sharing needles
Illicit diamorphine, produced by acetylation of morphine.
Morphine is used to treat moderate to severe pain.
Codeine is used to treat mild to moderate pain that does not respond to simple painkillers.