Opiate, opiod, Narcan? Words to know about the heroin epidemic


1. Opiate vs. opioid

Opiate: Opiates are painkillers with natural ingredients from the opium poppy (opium, morphine, heroin, codeine).

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Opioid: Man-made and semi-synthetic compounds that act like opiates in the body (fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone).

2. Opium, morphine, heroin — what’s the difference?

Opium: The dried milky juice from the poppy pod seed. It’s the least powerful of the three.

Morphine: Opium mixed with other chemicals. The gold standard of painkillers. Named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. It is less powerful than heroin.

Heroin: Morphine mixed with other chemicals. Illegal in the United States. Prescription heroin is legal in England and certain other countries. Named for the German word for “heroic.”

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3. What is fentanyl?

An extremely powerful, man-made painkiller that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. May be prescribed for extreme pain, such as cancer, and can be used with surgical anesthesia. Measured in micrograms — units about the size of a grain of salt – fentanyl can also be absorbed through the skin, an issue of concern for paramedics and others treating overdose victims.

4. What is Narcan?

Narcan, also known as the generic naloxone, can reverse the effects of heroin, morphine and fentanyl overdoses. It does so by blocking drugs from latching onto certain receptors in the brain.

5. What is an overdose?

A toxic amount of a drug or combination of drugs. An overdose is not always fatal, but it is a medical emergency. A heroin overdose depresses breathing. The lack of oxygen can kill or cause brain damage.

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