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Scored poppy pod with the 'milk. This is used to make opium.
Raw opium

Opioids is a name for a number of chemical substances that act like morphine in the human body. Different opioids are used in hospitals. There they are used to treat acute pain, as it can occur after an operation. They can also be used to relieve pain, where treatment no longer makes sense, for example in certain cancer patients. Drugs that can relieve pain are known as analgesics, most of the time. Certain opioids are used as anesthetics, as well as in emergency medicine and intensive care medicine, especially in cases that are difficult to manage with non-opioid analgesics.[1]

Certain opioids have been used as illegal drugs. They can cause impairment if taken in large amounts.

Different kinds of opioids[change | change source]

The term Opiate is sometimes used as a synonym. Most often it is used to refer to opium alkaloids, and semi-synthetic opioids.

Natural opioids[change | change source]

Enodgenous opioids[change | change source]

So called endgenous opioiods are peptides produced by the human body. They are used to respond to stress, to suppress pain and hunger. They also interact with sex hormones and they can cause a states of Euphoria. Mammals produce them in the brain.

Opium alkaloids / Opiates[change | change source]

There are different alkaloids that naturally occur in opium. Opium is produced from Opium poppy. The most important ones are morphine, codeine and thebamine. Papaverine and noscarpine also occur in opium, but the way they work is different. Most of the time, they are therefore not counted as opiates.

Semi-synthetic opioids[change | change source]

These are produced based on natural opioids, which are changed. Examples include heroin and oxycodone

Fully synthetic opioids[change | change source]

Examples are

Addiction to opioids[change | change source]

If pain killers, like opioids are used for a long time, the body can become tolerant to them, which means that higher doses will be needed to keep the same effect. It also means that the body will eventually learn to operate with a dose of that medication like in normal circumstances and if the user of this drug tried to stop taking these pain killers, symptoms of withdrawal would appear.

These symptoms include restlessness, pain in the bones and muscles, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting and involuntary leg movements.

If the addiction keeps on going, eventual permanent brain changes can appear.

References[change | change source]

  1. McQuay H: Opioids in pain management. Review. Lancet. 1999 Jun 26;353(9171):2229-32 PMID 10393001