A Breakdown of the Opium Class of Drugs
The terms opioid, opiate, opium and heroin are sometimes used interchangeably. This can be confusing for people because the terms are not the same things, instead some of the terms are sub groups of the other terms.
Below is a breakdown from top to bottom on the terminology for the opium drug class.
Opium: First is opium. Opium is the substance that is produced from the poppy plant that ALL of the opium drugs, such as heroin, opioids, and opiates, are made from. Basically opium is the starting point. In opium a person will find alkaloids like morphine and codeine.
Opiate: Opiate is the term that is used for ALL of the opium-derived drugs. So basically, drugs in the opium class, are not called opium drugs…they are called opiates. This includes heroin, morphine, codeine, and all of the prescription painkillers that are synthetic morphine.
Heroin: Heroin is a manmade drug because it is processed morphine (That comes from opium) that people illegally make. This is typically done by people adding other ingredients to morphine that dissolve slowly in a person’s body to produce a longer acting high.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in the brain heroin is converted back to morphine, which then binds to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. These opioid receptors are located in various areas of the brain, especially those involved in the perception of pain. Moreover, opioid receptors are also located in the brain stem, which controls automatic processes critical for life, such as respiration, blood pressure and arousal.
Opioids: Opioids are the term used to specifically refer to prescription painkillers, or synthetically made morphine or codeine. The term opioids refers to drugs such as OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet, and Vicodin.
Is Opium Heroin?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin is a powerful opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine. Morphine is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin generally appears as a brown or white powder or as a black sticky substance, known as black tar heroin.
Heroin is made from opium, but opium is not the same thing as heroin. Opium contains various alkaloids, one of which is morphine, and morphine is what heroin is created from. Heroin is also an illicit manmade drug, whereas opium is a completely natural substance. These two drugs are not the same, but both are extremely powerful sedatives that can be fatal if a person takes too much of either one. In addition, both drugs are extremely addictive and will cause a person to form a dependency to them.