Is Heroin An Opiate?

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Heroin is an opioid drug derived from the poppy plant, and one of the most commonly abused substances in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin use crosses all age groups and income levels for men and women. The most significant increases come from demographic groups with historically low use rates, including women, those with private insurance, and those with higher incomes.

Opiates are a class of drugs with specific properties, such as pain relief and sedation, due to their chemical structure. Heroin belongs to this class because of its active ingredient, morphine. Morphine binds to certain receptors in the brain and central nervous system, which produces a euphoric effect that adds to its high potential for addiction.

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What is the Difference Between An Opiate & Opioid?

An opiate is a naturally occurring drug derived from the opium poppy plant.

Opioids are a larger class of natural, synthetic, or semi-synthetic chemicals that interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain and reduce the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain. This class of drugs includes fentanyl and pain medications available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.

That means all opiates are opioids, but not all opioids fall into the category of opiate.

Natural Opiates & The Poppy Plant

The poppy plant has long been used for its medicinal properties, but it also has a history of recreational use due to its psychoactive effects. Natural opiates that are derived from the seedpod of the opium poppy include morphine, codeine, and heroin.

Opiates have powerful pain-relieving and sedative properties, which makes them attractive to those seeking relief from physical or emotional pain. However, they also pose significant risks due to their highly addictive nature and potential for overdose. Because of this, many countries have outlawed the possession and sale of these substances without a prescription.

Opioids & Synthetic Narcotics

Opioids are a class of drugs similar to opiates, however, they have been chemically modified to create more potent effects. Synthetic narcotics opioids created in laboratories with the intention of creating more robust and longer-lasting pain relief than that offered by naturally occurring opiates.

Common examples include oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and methadone. While these drugs can offer more effective pain relief than natural opiates, there is still a risk of addiction and overdose due to their high potency. As with any opioid drug, it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with synthetic narcotics.

What are the symptoms of opioid use disorder?

Opioid use disorder is a medical condition characterized by an addiction to opioids, including heroin and other opiates. Common symptoms of opioid use disorder include:

  • Cravings for the drug.
  • Decreased mental clarity or focus
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea and irritability when unable to access the drug.
  • Other physical symptoms may include sweating and shaking or muscle tension.

Breaking free from opioids can be difficult to do alone because of their highly addictive nature. Successful addiction treatment is best found through a comprehensive recovery program like the one offered at Guardian Recovery, which provides the support you need to detox in a safe and comfortable environment and sets you on the road to long-term recovery.

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Is Heroin A Synthetic Narcotic?

While heroin is considered a natural substance vs. a synthetic one, dealers cut pure heroin with other substances before sale. Many of these substances, such as sugar, corn starch, and baby powder, are relatively harmless. However, some dealers also cut heroin with synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, making use even more dangerous.

Heroin Synthesized From Morphine

Heroin is synthesized from morphine by manipulating the chemical structure of morphine molecules. The action increases potency and makes it easier to absorb intravenously. Synthesis makes heroin more potent than other opiates and highly attractive to recreational drug users looking for a stronger high. Unfortunately, the process also increases the risks associated with using the drug, as it can lead to addiction and fatal overdose if used in large quantities or combined with other substances.

Heroin Drug Classification

Heroin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States. This classification means that heroin has no currently accepted medical use and carries a high potential for abuse. Heroin is also illegal without a prescription in many countries due to its highly addictive nature and potential for overdose. The possession or sale of this drug can carry serious criminal penalties.

Is Natural Opium As Addictive As Synthetic Opioids?

Natural opium is generally considered less addictive than synthetic opioids due to its lower potency. This means that it takes a higher quantity of natural opium to produce powerful effects, which reduces the risk of addiction and overdose. However, this does not imply that natural opium use is without risks. It can still lead to addiction and other health problems if used in large quantities or combined with other drugs. It is important to be aware of the potential dangers when using any opioid drug, including natural opium. If you or someone you know needs help with an addiction to opiates, seek professional help right away.

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If you are struggling with an addiction to heroin or any other type of opiate, there is help available. At Guardian Recovery, we provide comprehensive treatment, including medically-assisted detox, therapyspecialty programs, and reintegration support. Our caring and experienced administrative, medical, and clinical teams will guide you through every step of your recovery process from the first time you call. We provide a complimentary assessment and a free insurance benefits check and help coordinate local travel to our facility. All you or your loved one has to do is ask for help; we will take care of the rest. Contact us today.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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