You might get confused over terms as you read about opium, opiates and opioids. Heroin, morphine, opium and codeine are opiates produced from the opium poppy plant. The other painkillers you read or hear about or ones prescribed usually by a doctor, such as Percocet, Demerol, Oxycodone, etc., are likely opioid pain killers – opioids are synthetic drugs. So, opium has to do with the poppy plant, opiates are produced from opium and opioids are synthetic, opiate-like drugs. As bad as opiates are for those who become addicted, opioids like Fentanyl are becoming worse.
The drug Fentanyl is an opioid, a synthetic, opiate-like drug that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. In some areas of the US, Fentanyl is now a larger problem than heroin. According to this NY Times article, in certain New England areas, illicit Fentanyl is coming from Mexico. Although Fentanyl is great for pain relief if applied properly by medical professionals, it’s high risk to buy it off the street because it’s so potent.
The strange part is that when addicts hear about someone overdosing from a strong drug like Fentanyl, they’ll seek it out, thinking they won’t use so much as to kill them, but knowing they’ll get what they consider good product. Addiction and thrill seeking override good judgement. This is from the article:
“It’s just everywhere,” Heather Sartori, 38, a former nurse who is on methadone after years of shooting up heroin, said as she sat at a busy McDonald’s here. “It would be really hard to navigate through this city without being touched by it.”
She said she had lost several friends to fentanyl and called Lawrence’s drug-infested landscape “the treacherous terrain where the ghosts of the fallen linger.”
“It’s cheaper, and the high is better, so more addicts will go to a dealer to get that quality and grade,” she said, even if it means they could die.
“That is the phenomenon of the addicted mind,” she said. “It’s beyond the scope of a rational thinker to understand.”
Hopefully, as the opiate/opioid problem spreads, more resources will arise to intervene, educate and provide treatment. This is not a new problem – opium, opiates and opiate-like drugs have been a problem since opium poppy plants were first discovered thousands of years ago. Today, though, in the 21st century, there are answers to the problem. Also, opiate/opioid addiction should always be considered in the context of addiction in general — still, alcoholism does far more damage to society than opiate/opioid addiction. We’ve come a long way treating addiction, but there’s still a lot that needs to be done.