Is Codeine an Opiate? | Facts About Opioids
Before exploring facts about opioids and answering “is codeine an opiate,” what is codeine in general?
Codeine is a prescription drug that’s used to treat mild to moderate pain, as well as a cough. This narcotic pain reliever converts to morphine when it reaches the brain of the user, and then it binds to opioid receptors. Codeine changes the way pain sensations are experienced, but because some pain can often still be felt, it’s usually combined with other drugs like acetaminophen to increase the effectiveness.
Some of the side effects of codeine can include itchiness, lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, sedation, and constipation.
There is also the potential for both addiction and physical dependence with the use of codeine, which is why it’s intended as a short-term treatment.
An opiate is a term used in pharmacology that describes a drug derived from opium. Opium is something that comes from the poppy plant which contains an alkaloid called morphine. That morphine derived from the plant can then be processed chemically to create heroin and synthetic opioids which are used as prescription medicines. Morphine is extracted from opium and then converted to other substances, and it’s the key substance involved in the illegal heroin market.
Opiate is a term that refers to the alkaloid components of the opium poppy plant that are psychoactive. Then, within the plant are specific compounds that include morphine, thebaine, and codeine. So, yes codeine is an opiate.
All opiates are considered drugs with abuse potential and are controlled substances in the U.S.
All opiates have pain relieving abilities, which is why they are used medicinally.
So what about the term opioids? How do opioids compare to opiates, and what are some of the key facts about opioids?
Opiate, in strictest terms, refers to a substance that’s directly derived from opium. This includes codeine.
There are also opioids, which are called this because they work in many of the same ways as opiates, but they aren’t naturally occurring. Instead, they are semi-synthetic or synthetic, meaning they are manufactured using chemical processes. Semi-synthetic opioids are a combination of natural opiates that have gone through chemical changes, while synthetic opioids are entirely made from chemical processes.
Oxycodone and hydrocodone are classified as semi-synthetic opioids, while synthetic opioids include methadone and fentanyl.
The biggest similarity between opioids and opiates is the fact that both act on the opioid receptor systems in the central nervous system. When this happens, they change how pain sensation is experienced, but they can also lead to drowsiness and overall depression of the central nervous system. This CNS depression is one of the reasons opioids and opiates can be dangerous, particularly in high doses.
When someone is abusing opiates or opioids, it can slow their breathing to the point that they nod off, lose consciousness or die.
Opiates and opioids can have similar side effects which include sedation, nausea, vomiting, and itchiness, and they can also lead to abuse and addiction.
Both opiates and opioids can also lead to physical dependence. This means that a person has gotten to the point where their body feels like it must have the drug to function normally. If someone is physically dependent on opiates or opioids, and they stop taking them suddenly, they will go through withdrawal.
Withdrawal from opiates or opioids can include nausea, vomiting, sweating, fatigue, headache, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and diarrhea.
Another term that’s important to know when answering “is codeine an opiate,” is narcotic.
Opioids are also narcotics, as are opiates although some people choose not to use this term because they feel it has negative connotations.
While codeine is technically an opiate, it’s considered one of the milder drugs of this type. However, it should still be used with caution. Codeine is prescribed for the treatment of mild to moderate pain and is often combined with something else like acetaminophen to make it more effective for pain relief.
To sum up, is codeine an opiate? Yes, an opiate is a term that refers to substances naturally derived from the poppy plant, and this includes codeine. There are also semi-synthetic and synthetic opioids, which include prescription drugs, which act in a way similar to natural opiates but are chemically synthesized.
Have more questions about Codeine abuse?Read the most frequently asked questions
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