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Drugs You Didn’t Know Were Opium and Morphine Derivatives

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Opioids are drugs that are either derived from the poppy plant, from opium and morphine themselves, or are synthetically created to act like opioid analgesics. Certain drugs that are derived straight from opium are called opiates and can be highly addictive while causing physical and psychological dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

Opium & Morphine

According to the NHTSA, morphine and opium are both derived from the seedpod of the poppy plant. “The milky resin that seeps from the incisions made in the unripe seedpod is dried and powdered to make opium, which contains a number of alkaloids including morphine.” While both of these drugs can be highly habit-forming and dangerous, morphine is still used in a medical environment while opium is not. Still, many drugs (both medical and nonmedical) are derived from both of these substances.

Opium Derivatives

Often, substances are taken from opium and the poppy plant to create prescription pain medications. Some of those medications are:

  • Codeine
    Codeine is a naturally occurring alkaloid in the poppy plant. It is a painkiller but is sometimes used to reduce coughing. Therefore, it is used in some of the stronger cough medicines which people sometimes use to get high. Codeine actually converts to morphine when in the body.
  • Hydrocodone
    Hydrocodone is derived from codeine. It is often used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is used in popular medications like Lortab, Vicodin, and Panacet.

Morphine Derivatives

Many drugs are also synthesized from morphine which is usually used for short-term pain patients. However, some of its derivatives are used for longer-term or chronic pain. Here are a few that you may not have known about:

  • Heroin
    opiate derivatives

    Heroin and some painkillers derive from morphine.

    Heroin “is synthesized from morphine,” making it a morphine derivative (NIDA). In 2011, it was reported that “4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older… had used heroin at least once in their lives.” Prescription opioid abuse is often thought of as a gateway to heroin abuse as the body’s reactions to the drugs are so similar.

  • Oxycodone
    Derived from thebaine, a morphine-like substance, oxycodone is used in many prescription drugs like Percolone and Roxicodone. It is widely prescribed as a “medication to relieve moderate to severe pain around the clock” (NLM).
  • Oxymorphone
    Oxymorphone is a morphine derivative and can be a very strong semi-synthetic opioid analgesic. Its brand names, Numorphan, Opana, and Numorphone are used to treat pain and to preserve anesthesia as a preoperative drug.
  • Hydromorphone
    Another morphine derivative, hydromorphone is used to relieve pain and can be found in the popular brand name medications Dilaudid and Exalgo.

Because many of these medications are legal and are used to treat chronic pain, cough, and as an anesthesia, it is important to know what you’re using. Talk to your doctor about any and all side effects of opium and morphine-based drugs and know what behaviors are safe and unsafe while taking them. Opium, morphine, and drugs that are derived from these substances are highly addictive and can make a person physically as well as psychologically dependent, causing withdrawal and sometimes overdose.

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