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Definition and Description of Opiates

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Opiate-type drugs have been around for thousands of years considering they originate from nature's very own opium poppy seed plant. This class of drugs works wonders at relieving pain symptoms, whether mild, moderate or severe.

A complete opiates definition actually includes a few more varieties of drugs, though the overall ingredients remain the same. Most notably, the majority of opiate drugs are known for their sedative-like effects on the brain and body. These same effects can also become the source of much pain and frustration for people who abuse opiates.

Opiates' definition likewise includes the body's own natural opioid cell receptors and the way they respond to opiate materials. In effect, opiates' definition encompasses more than the drugs themselves, but also their ability to take over brain chemical processes. Albeit so, this ready-made solution for treating pain symptoms has led to the development of a wide variety of opiate-based and opiate-type drugs.

Opiate Origins

The opium poppy seed plant offers a revealing starting point for an opiates definition. This plant contains over 50 different types of alkaloids. Alkaloids exist as organic compounds that produce certain physiological effects in the human body, such as pain relief or increased energy.

Opiates Image

Within nature, alkaloid-containing plants are a rarity with the majority of alkaloids originating from fungi, bacteria and animals.

With the opium poppy seed plant, 25 of its 50 alkaloids produce analgesic or pain relieving effects, according to Princeton University.

The origin or source of opiate drugs offers a type of prologue for an opiates definition in terms of how these drugs interact with the human body.


In effect, the natural origins of opiates have a lot to do with their ability to alter, and even warp brain and body functions.

Opiate Effects

The human body secretes its own rendition of opiates in the form of endorphin neurotransmitter chemicals. Opioid cell receptor sites, located throughout the central nervous system, secrete endorphin chemicals as needed. According to the Institute for Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluation, endorphins produce a calming or sedating effect in much the same way as opiates do.

As part of an opiate definition, the central nervous system develops a natural affinity to opiate materials to the point where the brain allows opiate effects to take over endorphin secretion processes. Any drug capable of commandeering opioid cell functions in this way fits the opiates definition to a tee.

Opium Derivatives

Of all the opiate drugs in existence, only three exist as pure extracts from the poppy seed plant: opium, morphine and codeine. While these may be the purest varieties of opiates, they're not necessarily the most potent.

Many derivatives of opium are classified as semi-synthetic, which means added ingredients can make for an even stronger drug. Some of the more commonly known opium derivatives include:

Yet another class of drugs falling under the opiates definition includes opiate antagonists. Opiate antagonists, such as naloxone and naltrexone interact with the same receptor sites as the other opiates. Instead of stimulating endorphin secretions, antagonist drugs deactivate cell receptor sites. This mechanism of action can make for an effective opiate addiction treatment medication.

quoteThough opiate drugs all produce the same sedating effects, the definition of opiates has as much to do with their effects as their chemical make-up.quote_right
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