Is Heroin an Opiate (or Opioid)?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that’s ravaging communities from inner cities to suburbs around the country. It’s not uncommon for dozens of overdoses to hit the same community in a few days, and images of parents passed out in cars after using heroin while their children watch is becoming the new normal. It’s a sad situation, but also one that’s difficult to come up with solutions for.

In an effort to curb this epidemic, people can empower themselves by learning about heroin, including what it is, its effects and how to identify it.

One of the top questions a lot of people have about the drug is, “Is heroin an opiate?” The following outlines some key facts about heroin and answers this question.

Is Heroin An Opiate?
Yes, heroin can be classified as an opiate, but it’s also referred to as an opioid. These terms are often used interchangeably. Heroin is an opioid drug that creates a pleasant or even euphoric sensation when it’s taken. It decreases sensations of pain and also produces feelings of warmth and sleepiness.

Opioids bind to the opioid receptors in the brain. When this happens, a flood of dopamine pours into the brain, at a much greater level than what could happen naturally. Opioid drug use can change how a person’s reward system acts in the brain. The brain then wants to continue doing the behaviors that created that feeling, thus the desire to take more heroin.

This concept happens with other opioids as well, including prescription pain medicines.

To answer the question, “Is heroin an opiate?” it is. However, there is a difference between the terms opiate and opioid.

While they are used interchangeably, in the strictest of terms, an opiate is an alkaloid that comes from the opium poppy. The drugs that can be technically classified as opiates include morphine, codeine and heroin. These substances have a natural basis in that they are derived from opium. However, frequently heroin undergoes chemical synthesis and is also often mixed with other substances, including toxins.

Opioids, on the other hand, are synthetic (not naturally occurring) drugs. Opioids work in the same way as opiates, however, they are synthetic or partially synthetic. Common opioids include methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl among others.

The term opioid is an umbrella term that refers to both naturally occurring opiates and man-made opioids. Not all opioids are naturally occurring opiates, but all opiates are considered part of the opioid class of drugs.

All opiates are considered opioids, but Opioids change the way people perceive pain because they attach to opioid receptors, but of course, as was touched on above, they also change how the brain feels pleasure.

After using these drugs for a while, the brain becomes rewired to the point that it’s difficult to feel pleasure or happiness without their presence, which is a condition called anhedonia. Eventually, anhedonia can go away, but this is one of the reasons people often experience emotional and mental health issues when they’re recovering from an addiction to a drug like heroin.

Along with answering the question, “Is heroin an opiate?” it can be useful to know what this drug can do to the body. When someone takes heroin, it puts them in a state of what feels like intense relaxation, but this reflects the dangers of the drug as well. Heroin and other opioids slow the respiratory system because of the impact they have on the central nervous system.

When you overdose on heroin or any other opioid, your blood pressure and breathing can slow to the point where you slip into a coma or your heart fails.

Opiates are not just dangerous, but they’re also incredibly addictive. It’s important for people to know that heroin is an opiate, that opioid use is risky and may even be fatal.

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