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Synthetic Opiates List – Drugs that Derive from Opium

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Most prescription pain relief medications exist as synthesized versions of natural opiate drugs like opium, morphine and heroin. These medications make up the majority of drugs appearing on a synthetic opiates list.

Opiates, also known as analgesics, have become one of the most commonly abused drugs on the market. With long-term use, their debilitating effects disrupt most every major system in the body. According to the Institute for Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluation, most all opiate drugs work as depressants that slow down central nervous system processes.

The list of synthetic opiates includes two categories: synthetic and semisynthetic drugs. While the natural opium products can produce powerful effects on the brain and body, many synthetic and semisynthetic varieties carry even stronger analgesic properties than their predecessors do.



Many prescription painkillers derive from the opium plant.

The opium poppy seed plant contains natural pain relieving substances known as alkaloids, according to Princeton University. Natural opiate drugs come from natural opium alkaloids, which include:

  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Thebaine
  • Oripavine

Drugs on the list of synthetic opiates are manufactured according to the chemical structures found in natural alkaloids. Since synthetic varieties originate in the laboratory, these drugs can be made even stronger than opium itself.

On the technical side, only drugs derived from opium alkaloids are actual opiates. As semisynthetic opiates do contain small quantities of natural alkaloids, this category does “technically” qualify as opiates. As most all opiate derived drugs produce the same depressant-type effects on the central nervous system, drugs on the list of synthetic opiates are still commonly included in the opiate category.

List of Synthetic Opiates

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as seven million Americans abused prescription medications in 2010. Prescription drug categories include:

  • Pain relievers
  • Sedatives
  • Tranquilizers
  • Stimulants

Out of seven million people, 5.1 million regularly abuse pain relieving opiate drugs. Besides heroin, drugs on the list of synthetic opiates make up the bulk of prescription medications abused.

Some of the most commonly used medications on the list of synthetic opiates include:

  • Demerol
  • Fentanyl
  • Dilaudid
  • Norco
  • Lortab
  • Atarax
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine

Methadone and buprenorphine, while still pain relievers, produce a more controlled effect than other opiates. For this reason, these drugs are often used as treatments for opiate addiction.

Some synthetic opiate drugs can counteract the pain-relieving effects of other opiates. These drugs may also be used to treat opiate addiction. Those commonly used include:

  • Naloxone
  • Naltrexone

List of Semisynthetic Opiates

Both synthetic and natural opium alkaloids go into the making of semisynthetic opiates. Small concentrations of natural opium alkaloids exist in various amounts depending on the type of drug.

As part of the list of synthetic opiates, semisynthetic medications hold their own in terms of abuse and addictive potential when compared to strictly synthetic opiates.

Semisynthetic opiate medications include:

  • Oxymorphone – contains the natural alkaloid, thebaine
  • Hydrocodone – contains the natural alkaloid, codeine
  • Oxycodone – contains the natural alkaloid, thebaine
  • Hydromorphone – contains the natural alkaloid, morphine

While prescription opiates do offer an effective pain relief treatment, opiates in any form always carry a risk for addiction.

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