Opiates are essentially considered to be any of the numerous narcotic opioid alkaloids found naturally in the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). The type of opiates consumed by individuals are many and have a variety of names you may have heard, to include codeine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, methadone, heroin, etc. All these opiates are prescription medications with the exception of heroin. The opiate narcotics used by human beings are often incredibly powerful and therefore addiction and loss of independence are always risks.
You may also have heard of something called an Opioid, but it is important to note that there is a distinction between the meaning of the words opiate and opioid. Opiate is a word often used synonymously with the term opioid, but all opiates are limited to the naturally occurring alkaloids found in opium poppy plant resin. Opioid, however, refers to a drug class which includes all opiates, all synthetic and semi-synthetic substances derived from opium, and opioid peptides (ex., endorphins).
Opioids are easily one of the world’s oldest known drugs. We believe the opium poppy has been used therapeutically since Neolithic times, and literally predates recorded history.
Here are some other important definitions:
Opiate Abuse: A patterned use of an opiate in which the user consumes the substance in inappropriately large amounts or with methods that are harmful to themselves or others. In addition, use of these drugs may lead to criminal penalties and possible physical, social, and psychological harm.
Opiate Tolerance: A common occurrence in individuals taking high doses of opiates for an extended period of time. It is characterized by the need to take more and more of the substance to feel the desired effects.
Opiate Dependence: When tolerance has been built and cessation of opiates leads to withdrawal symptoms the individual is considered opiate dependent.
Opiate Addiction: When tolerance has been built and dependence has formed, and the individual continues to take the drug despite personal harm and consequences. Opiate dependence and opiate addiction are generally considered to be the same thing.
FACT: In 2012, there were 156,000 persons aged 12 or older who used heroin for the first time within the past year.
FACT: In the US alone, over two million people are addicted to prescription opiates.