Facts about Opiates

    1. Opiates are made from the opium poppy. Other similar drugs are made by chemists and are often called opioids. The most common opiates or opioids include heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone. They are discussed below.
    2. These drugs are a medical necessity for the relief of pain. Except for heroin, they are legal by prescription. Only about 1% of people who use them for pain become addicted. People who use them to �get high� are more likely to develop problems.
    3. Heroin is made from morphine which is from the opium poppy. It is illegal in the U.S.
    4. Heroin is a street drug in the US and is never pure. It is mixed with other substances and usually contaminated. The needles used to inject it are often contaminated, also.
    5. Morphine comes from the opium poppy and is well known to relieve pain. It can be taken by mouth or injected and can be abused. It is short acting, but there is a long acting type called MS Contin which is intended to be taken by mouth. If it is crushed and swallowed or injected it is no longer long acting and can cause fatal overdose.
    6. Opioids were developed to get longer acting drugs. Usually they are produced in forms that can be taken by mouth or injected.
    7. OxyContin is the long acting version of oxycodone that is intended to be taken by mouth. It is a good drug for people with chronic pain such as cancer but it also can be abused. If it is bitten or crushed and swallowed it is no longer long acting and is rapidly absorbed. When this happens it causes an overdose. Some crush it, dissolve it in saline and inject it. This is even more likely to cause an overdose. It can be fatal.
    8. Oxycodone (Percocet and Percodan) and hydrocodone (Vicodan) are short acting pain killers that are combined with acetaminophen or aspirin. They are less likely to be abused but it does happen.
    9. Methadone is a long acting opioid used widely for the treatment of heroin addiction. Given once daily it does not produce a �high� but prevents withdrawal. It is also used medically for chronic pain.
    10. People who experiment with opioids may start with oral use, snorting, sniffing, etc., but often progress to intravenous (IV) use because it is stronger. When the veins are damaged and can no longer be used, hypodermic injections are the logical substitute. This is called �skin popping� or �muscling� among other terms.
    11. IV or skin popping often leads to severe abscesses, heart infections, hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS because most street drugs are not clean.
    12. When addiction occurs, the victim must spend most of the time trying to make sure they get the next dose or �fix� in order to get the desired �high� and avoid withdrawal.
    13. Withdrawal is miserable, often compared to �the super flu� but it is not life threatening. It lasts from three to 10 days.
    14. Overdoses are common and life threatening. They occur because the addict does not know what strength they have bought or because they have developed tolerance and want a better �high�.
    15. If the addict is very sleepy and has constricted pupils, they need medical attention to prevent death from overdose. Also, if there are other medical problems the user may need medical care during withdrawal.