United States Drug Enforcement Administration
Drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five (5) distinct categories or schedules depending upon the drug’s acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential. The abuse rate is a determinate factor in the scheduling of the drug; for example, Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence. As the drug schedule changes-- Schedule II, Schedule III, etc., so does the abuse potential-- Schedule V drugs represents the least potential for abuse. A Listing of drugs and their schedule are located at Controlled Substance Act (CSA) Scheduling or CSA Scheduling by Alphabetical Order. These lists describes the basic or parent chemical and do not necessarily describe the salts, isomers and salts of isomers, esters, ethers and derivatives which may also be classified as controlled substances. These lists are intended as general references and are not comprehensive listings of all controlled substances.
Please note that a substance need not be listed as a controlled substance to be treated as a Schedule I substance for criminal prosecution. A controlled substance analogue is a substance which is intended for human consumption and is structurally or pharmacologically substantially similar to or is represented as being similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II substance and is not an approved medication in the United States. (See 21 U.S.C. §802(32)(A) for the definition of a controlled substance analogue and 21 U.S.C. §813 for the schedule.)
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:
heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote
Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are:
Combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin
Schedule III drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs abuse potential is less than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs but more than Schedule IV. Some examples of Schedule III drugs are:
Products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine), ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone
Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Some examples of Schedule IV drugs are:
Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol
Schedule V drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes. Some examples of Schedule V drugs are:
cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC), Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin
Alphabetical listing of Controlled Substances
Heroin Research Report
What is heroin and how is it used?
Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder that is "cut" with sugars, starch, powdered milk, or quinine. Pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste that predominantly originates in South America and, to a lesser extent, from Southeast Asia, and dominates U.S. markets east of the Mississippi River.3 Highly pure heroin can be snorted or smoked and may be more appealing to new users because it eliminates the stigma associated with injection drug use. "Black tar" heroin is sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal and is predominantly produced in Mexico and sold in U.S. areas west of the Mississippi River.3 The dark color associated with black tar heroin results from crude processing methods that leave behind impurities. Impure heroin is usually dissolved, diluted, and injected into veins, muscles, or under the skin.
"Morphia" redirects here. For other uses, see Morphia (disambiguation) and Morphine (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Morpheein.
Pain medication of the opiate family
|Trade names||Statex, MSContin, Oramorph, Sevredol, and others|
|Inhalation (smoking), insufflation (snorting), by mouth (PO), rectal, subcutaneous (SC), intramuscular (IM), intravenous (IV), epidural, and intrathecal (IT)|
|Bioavailability||20–40% (by mouth), 36–71% (rectally), 100% (IV/IM)|
|Onset of action||5 minutes (IV), 15 minutes (IM), 20 minutes (PO)|
|Elimination half-life||2–3 hours|
|Duration of action||3–7 hours|
|Excretion||Renal 90%, biliary 10%|
|Molar mass||285.343 g·mol−1|
|3D model (JSmol)|
|Solubility in water||HCl & sulf.: 60 mg/mL (20 °C)|
Morphine is a pain medication of the opiate family that is found naturally in a dark brown, resinous form, from the poppy plant (Papaver somniferum). It can be taken orally or injected; it is also often smoked. It acts directly on the central nervous system (CNS) to increase feelings of pleasure and warm relaxation and to reduce pain, and is often abused for this purpose. It can be taken for both acute pain and chronic pain and is frequently used for pain from myocardial infarction, kidney stones, and during labor. Morphine can be administered by mouth, by injection into a muscle, by injection under the skin, intravenously, injection into the space around the spinal cord, or rectally. Its maximum effect is reached after about 20 minutes when administered intravenously and 60 minutes when administered by mouth, while the duration of its effect is 3–7 hours. Long-acting formulations of morphine are available as MS-Contin, Kadian, and other brand names as well as generically.
Potentially serious side effects of morphine include decreased respiratory effort, vomiting, nausea, and low blood pressure. Morphine is addictive and prone to abuse. If one's dose is reduced after long-term use, opioid withdrawal symptoms may occur. Common side effects of morphine include drowsiness, vomiting, and constipation. Caution is advised for use of morphine during pregnancy or breast feeding, as it may affect the health of the baby.
Morphine was first isolated between 1803 and 1805 by German pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner. This is generally believed to be the first isolation of an active ingredient from a plant.Merck began marketing it commercially in 1827. Morphine was more widely used after the invention of the hypodermic syringe in 1853–1855. Sertürner originally named the substance morphium, after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus, as it has a tendency to cause sleep.
The primary source of morphine is isolation from poppy straw of the opium poppy. In 2013, approximately 523 tons of morphine were produced. Approximately 45 tons were used directly for pain, an increase over 400% the last twenty years. Most use for this purpose was in the developed world. About 70 percent of morphine is used to make other opioids such as hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and heroin. It is a Schedule II drug in the United States,Class A in the United Kingdom, and Schedule I in Canada. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines. Morphine is sold under many trade names. In 2018, it was the 132nd most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 5 million prescriptions.
Morphine is used primarily to treat both acute and chronic severe pain. Its duration of analgesia is about three to seven hours. Side-effects of nausea and constipation are rarely severe enough to warrant stopping treatment.
It is used for pain due to myocardial infarction and for labor pains. However, concerns exist that morphine may increase mortality in the event of non ST elevation myocardial infarction. Morphine has also traditionally been used in the treatment of acute pulmonary edema. A 2006 review, though, found little evidence to support this practice. A 2016 Cochrane review concluded that morphine is effective in relieving cancer pain.
Shortness of breath
Morphine is beneficial in reducing the symptom of shortness of breath due to both cancer and noncancer causes. In the setting of breathlessness at rest or on minimal exertion from conditions such as advanced cancer or end-stage cardiorespiratory diseases, regular, low-dose sustained-release morphine significantly reduces breathlessness safely, with its benefits maintained over time.
Opioid use disorder
Morphine is also available as a slow-release formulation for opiate substitution therapy (OST) in Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Canada for persons with opioid addiction who cannot tolerate either methadone or buprenorphine.
Two capsules (5 mg & 10 mg) of morphine sulfate extended- release
1 milliliter ampoule containing 10 mg of morphine
Relative contraindications to morphine include:
Adverse effects of opioids
- Common and short term
Like loperamide and other opioids, morphine acts on the myenteric plexus in the intestinal tract, reducing gut motility, causing constipation. The gastrointestinal effects of morphine are mediated primarily by μ-opioid receptors in the bowel. By inhibiting gastric emptying and reducing propulsive peristalsis of the intestine, morphine decreases the rate of intestinal transit. Reduction in gut secretion and increased intestinal fluid absorption also contribute to the constipating effect. Opioids also may act on the gut indirectly through tonic gut spasms after inhibition of nitric oxide generation. This effect was shown in animals when a nitric oxide precursor, L-arginine, reversed morphine-induced changes in gut motility.
See also: Opioid § Hormone imbalance
Clinical studies consistently conclude that morphine, like other opioids, often causes hypogonadism and hormone imbalances in chronic users of both sexes. This side effect is dose-dependent and occurs in both therapeutic and recreational users. Morphine can interfere with menstruation in women by suppressing levels of luteinizing hormone. Many studies suggest the majority (perhaps as many as 90%) of chronic opioid users have opioid-induced hypogonadism. This effect may cause the increased likelihood of osteoporosis and bone fracture observed in chronic morphine users. Studies suggest the effect is temporary. As of 2013[update], the effect of low-dose or acute use of morphine on the endocrine system is unclear.
Effects on human performance
Most reviews conclude that opioids produce minimal impairment of human performance on tests of sensory, motor, or attentional abilities. However, recent studies have been able to show some impairments caused by morphine, which is not surprising, given that morphine is a central nervous systemdepressant. Morphine has resulted in impaired functioning on critical flicker frequency (a measure of overall CNS arousal) and impaired performance on the Maddox wing test (a measure of the deviation of the visual axes of the eyes). Few studies have investigated the effects of morphine on motor abilities; a high dose of morphine can impair finger tapping and the ability to maintain a low constant level of isometric force (i.e. fine motor control is impaired), though no studies have shown a correlation between morphine and gross motor abilities.
In terms of cognitive abilities, one study has shown that morphine may have a negative impact on anterograde and retrograde memory, but these effects are minimal and transient. Overall, it seems that acute doses of opioids in non-tolerant subjects produce minor effects in some sensory and motor abilities, and perhaps also in attention and cognition. It is likely that the effects of morphine will be more pronounced in opioid-naive subjects than chronic opioid users.
In chronic opioid users, such as those on Chronic Opioid Analgesic Therapy (COAT) for managing severe, chronic pain, behavioural testing has shown normal functioning on perception, cognition, coordination and behaviour in most cases. One 2000 study analysed COAT patients to determine whether they were able to safely operate a motor vehicle. The findings from this study suggest that stable opioid use does not significantly impair abilities inherent in driving (this includes physical, cognitive and perceptual skills). COAT patients showed rapid completion of tasks that require the speed of responding for successful performance (e.g., Rey Complex Figure Test) but made more errors than controls. COAT patients showed no deficits in visual-spatial perception and organization (as shown in the WAIS-R Block Design Test) but did show impaired immediate and short-term visual memory (as shown on the Rey Complex Figure Test – Recall). These patients showed no impairments in higher-order cognitive abilities (i.e., planning). COAT patients appeared to have difficulty following instructions and showed a propensity toward impulsive behaviour, yet this did not reach statistical significance. It is important to note that this study reveals that COAT patients have no domain-specific deficits, which supports the notion that chronic opioid use has minor effects on psychomotor, cognitive, or neuropsychological functioning.
Morphine is a highly addictive substance. In controlled studies comparing the physiological and subjective effects of heroin and morphine in individuals formerly addicted to opiates, subjects showed no preference for one drug over the other. Equipotent, injected doses had comparable action courses, with no difference in subjects' self-rated feelings of euphoria, ambition, nervousness, relaxation, drowsiness, or sleepiness. Short-term addiction studies by the same researchers demonstrated that tolerance developed at a similar rate to both heroin and morphine. When compared to the opioids hydromorphone, fentanyl, oxycodone, and pethidine/meperidine, former addicts showed a strong preference for heroin and morphine, suggesting that heroin and morphine are particularly susceptible to abuse and addiction. Morphine and heroin were also much more likely to produce euphoria and other positive subjective effects when compared to these other opioids. The choice of heroin and morphine over other opioids by former drug addicts may also be because heroin (also known as morphine diacetate, diamorphine, or diacetyl morphine) is an ester of morphine and a morphine prodrug, essentially meaning they are identical drugs in vivo. Heroin is converted to morphine before binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, where morphine causes the subjective effects, which is what the addicted individuals are seeking.
Several hypotheses are given about how tolerance develops, including opioid receptor phosphorylation (which would change the receptor conformation), functional decoupling of receptors from G-proteins (leading to receptor desensitization), μ-opioid receptor internalization or receptor down-regulation (reducing the number of available receptors for morphine to act on), and upregulation of the cAMP pathway (a counterregulatory mechanism to opioid effects) (For a review of these processes, see Koch and Hollt.) CCK might mediate some counter-regulatory pathways responsible for opioid tolerance. CCK-antagonist drugs, specifically proglumide, have been shown to slow the development of tolerance to morphine.
Dependence and withdrawal
See also: Opioid use disorder and Opioid withdrawal
Cessation of dosing with morphine creates the prototypical opioid withdrawal syndrome, which, unlike that of barbiturates, benzodiazepines, alcohol, or sedative-hypnotics, is not fatal by itself in otherwise healthy people.
Acute morphine withdrawal, along with that of any other opioid, proceeds through a number of stages. Other opioids differ in the intensity and length of each, and weak opioids and mixed agonist-antagonists may have acute withdrawal syndromes that do not reach the highest level. As commonly cited[by whom?], they are:
- Stage I, 6 h to 14 h after last dose: Drug craving, anxiety, irritability, perspiration, and mild to moderate dysphoria
- Stage II, 14 h to 18 h after last dose: Yawning, heavy perspiration, mild depression, lacrimation, crying, headaches, runny nose, dysphoria, also intensification of the above symptoms, "yen sleep" (a waking trance-like state)
- Stage III, 16 h to 24 h after last dose: Rhinorrhea (runny nose) and increase in other of the above, dilated pupils, piloerection (goose bumps – a purported origin of the phrase, 'cold turkey,' but in fact the phrase originated outside of drug treatment), muscle twitches, hot flashes, cold flashes, aching bones and muscles, loss of appetite, and the beginning of intestinal cramping
- Stage IV, 24 h to 36 h after last dose: Increase in all of the above including severe cramping and involuntary leg movements ("kicking the habit" also called restless leg syndrome), loose stool, insomnia, elevation of blood pressure, moderate elevation in body temperature, increase in frequency of breathing and tidal volume, tachycardia (elevated pulse), restlessness, nausea
- Stage V, 36 h to 72 h after last dose: Increase in the above, fetal position, vomiting, free and frequent liquid diarrhea, which sometimes can accelerate the time of passage of food from mouth to out of system, weight loss of 2 kg to 5 kg per 24 h, increased white cell count, and other blood changes
- Stage VI, after completion of above: Recovery of appetite and normal bowel function, beginning of transition to postacute and chronic symptoms that are mainly psychological, but may also include increased sensitivity to pain, hypertension, colitis or other gastrointestinal afflictions related to motility, and problems with weight control in either direction
In advanced stages of withdrawal, ultrasonographic evidence of pancreatitis has been demonstrated in some patients and is presumably attributed to spasm of the pancreatic sphincter of Oddi.
The withdrawal symptoms associated with morphine addiction are usually experienced shortly before the time of the next scheduled dose, sometimes within as early as a few hours (usually 6 h to 12 h) after the last administration. Early symptoms include watery eyes, insomnia, diarrhea, runny nose, yawning, dysphoria, sweating, and in some cases a strong drug craving. Severe headache, restlessness, irritability, loss of appetite, body aches, severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, tremors, and even stronger and more intense drug craving appear as the syndrome progresses. Severe depression and vomiting are very common. During the acute withdrawal period, systolic and diastolic blood pressures increase, usually beyond premorphine levels, and heart rate increases, which have potential to cause a heart attack, blood clot, or stroke.
Chills or cold flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey") alternating with flushing (hot flashes), kicking movements of the legs ("kicking the habit") and excessive sweating are also characteristic symptoms. Severe pains in the bones and muscles of the back and extremities occur, as do muscle spasms. At any point during this process, a suitable narcotic can be administered that will dramatically reverse the withdrawal symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 h and 96 h after the last dose and subside after about 8 to 12 days. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health is very rarely fatal. Morphine withdrawal is considered less dangerous than alcohol, barbiturate, or benzodiazepine withdrawal.
The psychological dependence associated with morphine addiction is complex and protracted. Long after the physical need for morphine has passed, the addict will usually continue to think and talk about the use of morphine (or other drugs) and feel strange or overwhelmed coping with daily activities without being under the influence of morphine. Psychological withdrawal from morphine is usually a very long and painful process. Addicts often suffer severe depression, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, amnesia (forgetfulness), low self-esteem, confusion, paranoia, and other psychological disorders. Without intervention, the syndrome will run its course, and most of the overt physical symptoms will disappear within 7 to 10 days including psychological dependence. A high probability of relapse exists after morphine withdrawal when neither the physical environment nor the behavioral motivators that contributed to the abuse have been altered. Testimony to morphine's addictive and reinforcing nature is its relapse rate. Abusers of morphine (and heroin) have one of the highest relapse rates among all drug users, ranging up to 98% in the estimation of some medical experts.
See also: Opioid overdose
A large overdose can cause asphyxia and death by respiratory depression if the person does not receive medical attention immediately. Overdose treatment includes the administration of naloxone. The latter completely reverses morphine's effects, but may result in immediate onset of withdrawal in opiate-addicted subjects. Multiple doses may be needed as the duration of action of morphine is longer than that of naloxone.
The LD50 for humans of morphine sulphate and other preparations is not known with certainty. One poor quality study on morphine overdoses among soldiers reported that the fatal dose was 0.78 mcg/ml in males (~71 mg for an average 90 kg adult man) and 0.98mcg/ml in females (~74 mg for an average 75 kg female). It was not specified whether the dose was oral, parenteral or IV. Laboratory animal studies are usually cited in the literature. In serious drug dependency (high tolerance), 2000–3000 mg per day can be tolerated.
Morphine has classically been divided in two classes, where class I (also known as "Morphine base") is a brown non-water-soluble powder made of concentrated opium and class II, after a chemical process, becomes a white water-soluble powder. (Some custom services around the world also defined brown Heroin as Morphine class III and the white water-soluble Heroin as Morphine class IV. As a legally permitted medicine only of the old Morphine class II is in use.
Morphine is the prototypical opioid and is the standard against which other opioids are tested. It interacts predominantly with the μ–δ-opioid (Mu-Delta) receptor heteromer. The μ-binding sites are discretely distributed in the human brain, with high densities in the posterior amygdala, hypothalamus, thalamus, nucleus caudatus, putamen, and certain cortical areas. They are also found on the terminal axons of primary afferents within laminae I and II (substantia gelatinosa) of the spinal cord and in the spinal nucleus of the trigeminal nerve.
Morphine is a phenanthreneopioid receptoragonist – its main effect is binding to and activating the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) in the central nervous system. Its intrinsic activity at the MOR is heavily dependent on the assay and tissue being tested; in some situations it is a full agonist while in others it can be a partial agonist or even antagonist. In clinical settings, morphine exerts its principal pharmacological effect on the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. Its primary actions of therapeutic value are analgesia and sedation. Activation of the MOR is associated with analgesia, sedation, euphoria, physical dependence, and respiratory depression. Morphine is also a κ-opioid receptor (KOR) and δ-opioid receptor (DOR) agonist. Activation of the KOR is associated with spinal analgesia, miosis (pinpoint pupils), and psychotomimetic effects. The DOR is thought to play a role in analgesia. Although morphine does not bind to the σ receptor, it has been shown that σ receptor agonists, such as (+)-pentazocine, inhibit morphine analgesia, and σ receptor antagonists enhance morphine analgesia, suggesting downstream involvement of the σ receptor in the actions of morphine.
The effects of morphine can be countered with opioid receptor antagonists such as naloxone and naltrexone; the development of tolerance to morphine may be inhibited by NMDA receptor antagonists such as ketamine or dextromethorphan. The rotation of morphine with chemically dissimilar opioids in the long-term treatment of pain will slow down the growth of tolerance in the longer run, particularly agents known to have significantly incomplete cross-tolerance with morphine such as levorphanol, ketobemidone, piritramide, and methadone and its derivatives; all of these drugs also have NMDA antagonist properties. It is believed that the strong opioid with the most incomplete cross-tolerance with morphine is either methadone or dextromoramide.
Studies have shown that morphine can alter the expression of a number of genes. A single injection of morphine has been shown to alter the expression of two major groups of genes, for proteins involved in mitochondrial respiration and for cytoskeleton-related proteins.
Effects on the immune system
Morphine has long been known to act on receptors expressed on cells of the central nervous system resulting in pain relief and analgesia. In the 1970s and '80s, evidence suggesting that opioid drug addicts show increased risk of infection (such as increased pneumonia, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS) led scientists to believe that morphine may also affect the immune system. This possibility increased interest in the effect of chronic morphine use on the immune system.
The first step of determining that morphine may affect the immune system was to establish that the opiate receptors known to be expressed on cells of the central nervous system are also expressed on cells of the immune system. One study successfully showed that dendritic cells, part of the innate immune system, display opiate receptors. Dendritic cells are responsible for producing cytokines, which are the tools for communication in the immune system. This same study showed that dendritic cells chronically treated with morphine during their differentiation produce more interleukin-12 (IL-12), a cytokine responsible for promoting the proliferation, growth, and differentiation of T-cells (another cell of the adaptive immune system) and less interleukin-10 (IL-10), a cytokine responsible for promoting a B-cell immune response (B cells produce antibodies to fight off infection).
This regulation of cytokines appear to occur via the p38 MAPKs (mitogen-activated protein kinase)-dependent pathway. Usually, the p38 within the dendritic cell expresses TLR 4 (toll-like receptor 4), which is activated through the ligand LPS (lipopolysaccharide). This causes the p38 MAPK to be phosphorylated. This phosphorylation activates the p38 MAPK to begin producing IL-10 and IL-12. When the dendritic cells are chronically exposed to morphine during their differentiation process then treated with LPS, the production of cytokines is different. Once treated with morphine, the p38 MAPK does not produce IL-10, instead favoring production of IL-12. The exact mechanism through which the production of one cytokine is increased in favor over another is not known. Most likely, the morphine causes increased phosphorylation of the p38 MAPK. Transcriptional level interactions between IL-10 and IL-12 may further increase the production of IL-12 once IL-10 is not being produced. This increased production of IL-12 causes increased T-cell immune response.
Further studies on the effects of morphine on the immune system have shown that morphine influences the production of neutrophils and other cytokines. Since cytokines are produced as part of the immediate immunological response (inflammation), it has been suggested that they may also influence pain. In this way, cytokines may be a logical target for analgesic development. Recently, one study has used an animal model (hind-paw incision) to observe the effects of morphine administration on the acute immunological response. Following hind-paw incision, pain thresholds and cytokine production were measured. Normally, cytokine production in and around the wounded area increases in order to fight infection and control healing (and, possibly, to control pain), but pre-incisional morphine administration (0.1 mg/kg to 10.0 mg/kg) reduced the number of cytokines found around the wound in a dose-dependent manner. The authors suggest that morphine administration in the acute post-injury period may reduce resistance to infection and may impair the healing of the wound.
Absorption and metabolism
Morphine can be taken orally, sublingually, bucally, rectally, subcutaneously, intranasally, intravenously, intrathecally or epidurally and inhaled via a nebulizer. As a recreational drug, it is becoming more common to inhale ("Chasing the Dragon"), but, for medical purposes, intravenous (IV) injection is the most common method of administration. Morphine is subject to extensive first-pass metabolism (a large proportion is broken down in the liver), so, if taken orally, only 40% to 50% of the dose reaches the central nervous system. Resultant plasma levels after subcutaneous (SC), intramuscular (IM), and IV injection are all comparable. After IM or SC injections, morphine plasma levels peak in approximately 20 min, and, after oral administration, levels peak in approximately 30 min. Morphine is metabolised primarily in the liver and approximately 87% of a dose of morphine is excreted in the urine within 72 h of administration. Morphine is metabolized primarily into morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) and morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G) via glucuronidation by phase II metabolism enzyme UDP-glucuronosyl transferase-2B7 (UGT2B7). About 60% of morphine is converted to M3G, and 6% to 10% is converted to M6G. Not only does the metabolism occur in the liver but it may also take place in the brain and the kidneys. M3G does not undergo opioid receptor binding and has no analgesic effect. M6G binds to μ-receptors and is half as potent an analgesic as morphine in humans. Morphine may also be metabolized into small amounts of normorphine, codeine, and hydromorphone. Metabolism rate is determined by gender, age, diet, genetic makeup, disease state (if any), and use of other medications. The elimination half-life of morphine is approximately 120 min, though there may be slight differences between men and women. Morphine can be stored in fat, and, thus, can be detectable even after death. Morphine can cross the blood–brain barrier, but, because of poor lipid solubility, protein binding, rapid conjugation with glucuronic acid and ionization, it does not cross easily. Heroin, which is derived from morphine, crosses the blood–brain barrier more easily, making it more potent.
Main article: Extended-release morphine
There are extended-release formulations of orally administered morphine whose effect last longer, which can be given once per day. Brand names for this formulation of morphine include Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin and Dolcontin. For constant pain, the relieving effect of extended-release morphine given once (for Kadian) or twice (for MS Contin) every 24 hours is roughly the same as multiple administrations of immediate release (or "regular") morphine. Extended-release morphine can be administered together with "rescue doses" of immediate-release morphine as needed in case of breakthrough pain, each generally consisting of 5% to 15% of the 24-hour extended-release dosage.
Detection in body fluids
Morphine and its major metabolites, morphine-3-glucuronide and morphine-6-glucuronide, can be detected in blood, plasma, hair, and urine using an immunoassay. Chromatography can be used to test for each of these substances individually. Some testing procedures hydrolyze metabolic products into morphine before the immunoassay, which must be considered when comparing morphine levels in separately published results. Morphine can also be isolated from whole blood samples by solid phase extraction (SPE) and detected using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS).
Ingestion of codeine or food containing poppy seeds can cause false positives.
A 1999 review estimated that relatively low doses of heroin (which metabolizes immediately into morphine) are detectable by standard urine tests for 1–1.5 days after use. A 2009 review determined that, when the analyte is morphine and the limit of detection is 1 ng/ml, a 20 mg intravenous (IV) dose of morphine is detectable for 12–24 hours. A limit of detection of 0.6 ng/ml had similar results.
See also: Opium
Morphine is the most abundant opiate found in opium, the dried latex extracted by shallowly scoring the unripe seedpods of the Papaver somniferum poppy. Morphine is generally 8–14% of the dry weight of opium, although specially bred cultivars reach 26% or produce little morphine at all (under 1%, perhaps down to 0.04%). The latter varieties, including the 'Przemko' and 'Norman' cultivars of the opium poppy, are used to produce two other alkaloids, thebaine and oripavine, which are used in the manufacture of semi-synthetic and synthetic opioids like oxycodone and etorphine and some other types of drugs. P. bracteatum does not contain morphine or codeine, or other narcotic phenanthrene-type, alkaloids. This species is rather a source of thebaine. Occurrence of morphine in other Papaverales and Papaveraceae, as well as in some species of hops and mulberry trees has not been confirmed. Morphine is produced most predominantly early in the life cycle of the plant. Past the optimum point for extraction, various processes in the plant produce codeine, thebaine, and in some cases negligible amounts of hydromorphone, dihydromorphine, dihydrocodeine, tetrahydro-thebaine, and hydrocodone (these compounds are rather synthesized from thebaine and oripavine).
In the brain of mammals, morphine is detectable in trace steady-state concentrations. The human body also produces endorphins, which are chemically related endogenous opioidpeptides that function as neuropeptides and have similar effects to morphine.
This section needs expansion with: a more standard presentation, without a scheme-in-text, and with description of key enzymes, points of pathway regulation, etc. You can help by adding to it. (October 2016)
Morphine is an endogenous opioid in humans that can be synthesized by and released from various human cells, including white blood cells.CYP2D6, a cytochrome P450 isoenzyme, catalyzes the biosynthesis of morphine from codeine and dopamine from tyramine along the biosynthetic pathway of morphine in humans. The morphine biosynthetic pathway in humans occurs as follows:
L-tyrosine → para-tyramine or L-DOPA → dopamine → (S)-norlaudanosoline → (S)-reticuline → 1,2-dehydroretinulinium → (R)-reticuline → salutaridine → salutaridinol → thebaine → neopinone → codeinone → codeine → morphine
(S)-Norlaudanosoline (also known as tetrahydropapaveroline) can also be synthesized from 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetaldehyde (DOPAL), a metabolite of L-DOPA and dopamine. Urinary concentrations of endogenous codeine and morphine have been found to significantly increase in individuals taking L-DOPA for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Biosynthesis in the opium poppy
Morphine is biosynthesized in the opium poppy from the tetrahydroisoquinoline reticuline. It is converted into salutaridine, thebaine, and oripavine. The enzymes involved in this process are the salutaridine synthase, salutaridine:NADPH 7-oxidoreductase and the codeinone reductase. Researchers are attempting to reproduce the biosynthetic pathway that produces morphine in genetically engineeredyeast. In June 2015 the S-reticuline could be produced from sugar and R-reticuline could be converted to morphine, but the intermediate reaction could not be performed. In August 2015 the first complete synthesis of thebaine and hydrocodone in yeast were reported, but the process would need to be 100,000 times more productive to be suitable for commercial use.
Elements of the morphine structure have been used to create completely synthetic drugs such as the morphinan family (levorphanol, dextromethorphan and others) and other groups that have many members with morphine-like qualities. The modification of morphine and the aforementioned synthetics has also given rise to non-narcotic drugs with other uses such as emetics, stimulants, antitussives, anticholinergics, muscle relaxants, local anaesthetics, general anaesthetics, and others. Morphine-derived agonist–antagonist drugs have also been developed.
Morphine is a benzylisoquinoline alkaloid with two additional ring closures. As Jack DeRuiter of the Department of Drug Discovery and Development (formerly, Pharmacal Sciences), Harrison School of Pharmacy, Auburn University stated in his Fall 2000 course notes for that earlier department's "Principles of Drug Action 2" course, "Examination of the morphine molecule reveals the following structural features important to its pharmacological profile...
- A rigid pentacyclic structure consisting of a benzene ring (A), two partially unsaturated cyclohexane rings (B and C), a piperidine ring (D) and a tetrahydrofuran ring (E). Rings A, B and C are the phenanthrene ring system. This ring system has little conformational flexibility...
- Two hydroxyl functional groups: a C3-phenolic [hydroxyl group] (pKa 9.9) and a C6-allylic [hydroxyl group],
- An ether linkage between C4 and C5,
- Unsaturation between C7 and C8,
- A basic, [tertiary]-amine function at position 17, [and]
- [Five] centers of chirality (C5, C6, C9, C13 and C14) with morphine exhibiting a high degree of stereoselectivity of analgesic action."[better source needed][needs update]
Morphine and most of its derivatives do not exhibit optical isomerism, although some more distant relatives like the morphinan series (levorphanol, dextorphan and the racemic parent chemical racemorphan) do, and as noted above stereoselectivity in vivo is an important issue.
Uses and derivatives
Most of the licit morphine produced is used to make codeine by methylation. It is also a precursor for many drugs including heroin (3,6-diacetylmorphine), hydromorphone (dihydromorphinone), and oxymorphone (14-hydroxydihydromorphinone). Most semi-synthetic opioids, both of the morphine and codeine subgroups, are created by modifying one or more of the following:
- Halogenating or making other modifications at positions 1 or 2 on the morphine carbon skeleton.
- The methyl group that makes morphine into codeine can be removed or added back, or replaced with another functional group like ethyl and others to make codeine analogues of morphine-derived drugs and vice versa. Codeine analogues of morphine-based drugs often serve as prodrugs of the stronger drug, as in codeine and morphine, hydrocodone and hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone, nicocodeine and nicomorphine, dihydrocodeine and dihydromorphine, etc.
- Saturating, opening, or other changes to the bond between positions 7 and 8, as well as adding, removing, or modifying functional groups to these positions; saturating, reducing, eliminating, or otherwise modifying the 7–8 bond and attaching a functional group at 14 yields hydromorphinol; the oxidation of the hydroxyl group to a carbonyl and changing the 7–8 bond to single from double changes codeine into oxycodone.
- Attachment, removal or modification of functional groups to positions 3 or 6 (dihydrocodeine and related, hydrocodone, nicomorphine); in the case of moving the methyl functional group from position 3 to 6, codeine becomes heterocodeine, which is 72 times stronger, and therefore six times stronger than morphine
- Attachment of functional groups or other modification at position 14 (oxymorphone, oxycodone, naloxone)
- Modifications at positions 2, 4, 5 or 17, usually along with other changes to the molecule elsewhere on the morphine skeleton. Often this is done with drugs produced by catalytic reduction, hydrogenation, oxidation, or the like, producing strong derivatives of morphine and codeine.
Many morphine derivatives can also be manufactured using thebaine or codeine as a starting material. Replacement of the N-methyl group of morphine with an N-phenylethyl group results in a product that is 18 times more powerful than morphine in its opiate agonist potency. Combining this modification with the replacement of the 6-hydroxyl with a 6-methylene group produces a compound some 1,443 times more potent than morphine, stronger than the Bentley compounds such as etorphine (M99, the Immobilon tranquilliser dart) by some measures. Closely related to morphine are the opioids morphine-N-oxide (genomorphine), which is a pharmaceutical that is no longer in common use; and pseudomorphine, an alkaloid that exists in opium, form as degradation products of morphine.
As a result of the extensive study and use of this molecule, more than 250 morphine derivatives (also counting codeine and related drugs) have been developed since the last quarter of the 19th century. These drugs range from 25% the analgesic strength of codeine (or slightly more than 2% of the strength of morphine) to several thousand times the strength of morphine, to powerful opioid antagonists, including naloxone (Narcan), naltrexone (Trexan), diprenorphine (M5050, the reversing agent for the Immobilon dart) and nalorphine (Nalline). Some opioid agonist-antagonists, partial agonists, and inverse agonists are also derived from morphine. The receptor-activation profile of the semi-synthetic morphine derivatives varies widely and some, like apomorphine are devoid of narcotic effects.
Both morphine and its hydrated form are sparingly soluble in water. For this reason, pharmaceutical companies produce sulfate and hydrochloride salts of the drug, both of which are over 300 times more water-soluble than their parent molecule.[clarification needed] Whereas the pH of a saturated morphine hydrate solution is 8.5, the salts are acidic. Since they derive from a strong acid but weak base, they are both at about pH = 5;[clarification needed] as a consequence, the morphine salts are mixed with small amounts of NaOH to make them suitable for injection.
A number of salts of morphine are used, with the most common in current clinical use being the hydrochloride, sulfate, tartrate, and citrate; less commonly methobromide, hydrobromide, hydroiodide, lactate, chloride, and bitartrate and the others listed below. Morphine diacetate (heroin) is not a salt, but rather a further derivative, see above.
Morphine meconate is a major form of the alkaloid in the poppy, as is morphine pectinate, nitrate, sulfate, and some others. Like codeine, dihydrocodeine and other (especially older) opiates, morphine has been used as the salicylate salt by some suppliers and can be easily compounded, imparting the therapeutic advantage of both the opioid and the NSAID; multiple barbiturate salts of morphine were also used in the past, as was/is morphine valerate, the salt of the acid being the active principle of valerian.Calcium morphenate is the intermediate in various latex and poppy-straw methods of morphine production, more rarely sodium morphenate takes its place. Morphine ascorbate and other salts such as the tannate, citrate, and acetate, phosphate, valerate and others may be present in poppy tea depending on the method of preparation.
The salts listed by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration for reporting purposes, in addition to a few others, are as follows:
|Select salts of morphine with their Controlled Substances Act (CSA) schedule, Administrative Controlled Substances Code Number (ACSCN), and free base conversion ratio.[clarification needed]|
In the opium poppy, the alkaloids are bound to meconic acid. The method is to extract from the crushed plant with diluted sulfuric acid, which is a stronger acid than meconic acid, but not so strong to react with alkaloid molecules. The extraction is performed in many steps (one amount of crushed plant is extracted at least six to ten times, so practically every alkaloid goes into the solution). From the solution obtained at the last extraction step, the alkaloids are precipitated by either ammonium hydroxide or sodium carbonate. The last step is purifying and separating morphine from other opium alkaloids. The somewhat similar Gregory process was developed in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, which begins with stewing the entire plant, in most cases save the roots and leaves, in plain or mildly acidified water, then proceeding through steps of concentration, extraction, and purification of alkaloids. Other methods of processing "poppy straw" (i.e., dried pods and stalks) use steam, one or more of several types of alcohol, or other organic solvents.
The poppy straw methods predominate in Continental Europe and the British Commonwealth, with the latex method in most common use in India. The latex method can involve either vertical or horizontal slicing of the unripe pods with a two-to five-bladed knife with a guard developed specifically for this purpose to the depth of a fraction of a millimetre and scoring of the pods can be done up to five times. An alternative latex method sometimes used in China in the past is to cut off the poppy heads, run a large needle through them, and collect the dried latex 24 to 48 hours later.
In India, opium harvested by licensed poppy farmers is dehydrated to uniform levels of hydration at government processing centers, and then sold to pharmaceutical companies that extract morphine from the opium. However, in Turkey and Tasmania, morphine is obtained by harvesting and processing the fully mature dry seed pods with attached stalks, called poppy straw. In Turkey, a water extraction process is used, while in Tasmania, a solvent extraction process is used.
Opium poppy contains at least 50 different alkaloids, but most of them are of very low concentration. Morphine is the principal alkaloid in raw opium and constitutes roughly 8–19% of opium by dry weight (depending on growing conditions). Some purpose-developed strains of poppy now produce opium that is up to 26% morphine by weight. A rough rule of thumb to determine the morphine content of pulverised dried poppy straw is to divide the percentage expected for the strain or crop via the latex method by eight or an empirically determined factor, which is often in the range of 5 to 15. The Norman strain of P. Somniferum, also developed in Tasmania, produces down to 0.04% morphine but with much higher amounts of thebaine and oripavine, which can be used to synthesise semi-synthetic opioids as well as other drugs like stimulants, emetics, opioid antagonists, anticholinergics, and smooth-muscle agents.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Hungary supplied nearly 60% of Europe's total medication-purpose morphine production. To this day, poppy farming is legal in Hungary, but poppy farms are limited by law to 2 acres (8,100 m2). It is also legal to sell dried poppy in flower shops for use in floral arrangements.
It was announced in 1973 that a team at the National Institutes of Health in the United States had developed a method for total synthesis of morphine, codeine, and thebaine using coal tar as a starting material. A shortage in codeine-hydrocodone class cough suppressants (all of which can be made from morphine in one or more steps, as well as from codeine or thebaine) was the initial reason for the research.
Most morphine produced for pharmaceutical use around the world is actually converted into codeine as the concentration of the latter in both raw opium and poppy straw is much lower than that of morphine; in most countries, the usage of codeine (both as end-product and precursor) is at least equal or greater than that of morphine on a weight basis.
Main article: Morphine total synthesis
The first morphine total synthesis, devised by Marshall D. Gates, Jr. in 1952, remains a widely used example of total synthesis. Several other syntheses were reported, notably by the research groups of Rice, Evans, Fuchs, Parker, Overman, Mulzer-Trauner, White, Taber, Trost, Fukuyama, Guillou, and Stork. Because of the stereochemical complexity and consequent synthetic challenge presented by this polycyclic structure, Michael Freemantle has expressed the view that it is "highly unlikely" that a chemical synthesis will ever be cost-effective such that it could compete with the cost of producing morphine from the opium poppy.
Precursor to other opioids
This section needs expansion with: sourced content that brielfy summarises how morphine is used, industrially and globally, to produce other compounds with utility in medicine or research. You can help by adding to it. (February 2020)
Morphine is a precursor in the manufacture in a number of opioids such as dihydromorphine, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone as well as codeine, which itself has a large family of semi-synthetic derivatives.
Illicit morphine is produced, though rarely, from codeine found in over-the-counter cough and pain medicines. Another illicit source is morphine extracted from extended-release morphine products. Chemical reactions can then be used to convert morphine, dihydromorphine, and hydrocodone into heroin or other opioids [e.g., diacetyldihydromorphine (Paralaudin), and thebacon]. Other clandestine conversions—of morphine, into ketones of the hydromorphone class, or other derivatives like dihydromorphine (Paramorfan), desomorphine (Permonid), metopon, etc., and of codeine into hydrocodone (Dicodid), dihydrocodeine (Paracodin), etc. —require greater expertise, and types and quantities of chemicals and equipment that are more difficult to source, and so are more rarely used, illicitly (but cases have been recorded).
An opium-based elixir has been ascribed to alchemists of Byzantine times, but the specific formula was lost during the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul). Around 1522, Paracelsus made reference to an opium-based elixir that he called laudanum from the Latin word laudare, meaning "to praise" He described it as a potent painkiller, but recommended that it be used sparingly. The recipe given differs substantially from that of modern-day laudanum.
Morphine was discovered as the first active alkaloid extracted from the opium poppy plant in December 1804 in Paderborn by German pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner. In 1817, Sertürner reported experiments in which he administered morphine to himself, three young boys, three dogs, and a mouse; all four people almost died. Sertürner originally named the substance morphium after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus, as it has a tendency to cause sleep. Sertürner's morphium was six times stronger than opium. He hypothesized that, because lower doses of the drug were needed, it would be less addictive. However Sertürner became addicted to the drug, warning that "I consider it my duty to attract attention to the terrible effects of this new substance I called morphium in order that calamity may be averted."
The drug was first marketed to the general public by Sertürner and Company in 1817 as a pain medication, and also as a treatment for opium and alcohol addiction. It was first used as a poison in 1822 when Dr. Edme Castaing of France was convicted of murdering a patient. Commercial production began in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1827 by the pharmacy that became the pharmaceutical company Merck, with morphine sales being a large part of their early growth. In the 1850s, Alexander Wood reported that he had injected morphine into his wife Rebecca as an experiment; the myth goes that this killed her because of respiratory depression, but she outlived her husband by ten years.
Later it was found that morphine was more addictive than either alcohol or opium, and its extensive use during the American Civil War allegedly resulted in over 400,000 sufferers from the "soldier's disease" of morphine addiction. This idea has been a subject of controversy, as there have been suggestions that such a disease was in fact a fabrication; the first documented use of the phrase "soldier's disease" was in 1915.
Diacetylmorphine (better known as heroin) was synthesized from morphine in 1874 and brought to market by Bayer in 1898. Heroin is approximately 1.5 to 2 times more potent than morphine weight for weight. Due to the lipid solubility of diacetylmorphine, it can cross the blood–brain barrier faster than morphine, subsequently increasing the reinforcing component of addiction. Using a variety of subjective and objective measures, one study estimated the relative potency of heroin to morphine administered intravenously to post-addicts to be 1.80–2.66 mg of morphine sulfate to 1 mg of diamorphine hydrochloride (heroin).
Morphine became a controlled substance in the US under the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, and possession without a prescription in the US is a criminal offense. Morphine was the most commonly abused narcotic analgesic in the world until heroin was synthesized and came into use. In general, until the synthesis of dihydromorphine (ca. 1900), the dihydromorphinone class of opioids (1920s), and oxycodone (1916) and similar drugs, there were no other drugs in the same efficacy range as opium, morphine, and heroin, with synthetics still several years away (pethidine was invented in Germany in 1937) and opioid agonists among the semi-synthetics were analogues and derivatives of codeine such as dihydrocodeine (Paracodin), ethylmorphine (Dionine), and benzylmorphine (Peronine). Even today, morphine is the most sought after prescription narcotic by heroin addicts when heroin is scarce, all other things being equal; local conditions and user preference may cause hydromorphone, oxymorphone, high-dose oxycodone, or methadone as well as dextromoramide in specific instances such as 1970s Australia, to top that particular list. The stop-gap drugs used by the largest absolute number of heroin addicts is probably codeine, with significant use also of dihydrocodeine, poppy straw derivatives like poppy pod and poppy seed tea, propoxyphene, and tramadol.
The structural formula of morphine was determined by 1925 by Robert Robinson. At least three methods of total synthesis of morphine from starting materials such as coal tar and petroleum distillates have been patented, the first of which was announced in 1952, by Dr. Marshall D. Gates, Jr. at the University of Rochester. Still, the vast majority of morphine is derived from the opium poppy by either the traditional method of gathering latex from the scored, unripe pods of the poppy, or processes using poppy straw, the dried pods and stems of the plant, the most widespread of which was invented in Hungary in 1925 and announced in 1930 by Hungarian pharmacologist János Kabay.
In 2003, there was discovery of endogenous morphine occurring naturally in the human body. Thirty years of speculation were made on this subject because there was a receptor that, it appeared, reacted only to morphine: the μ3-opioid receptor in human tissue. Human cells that form in reaction to cancerous neuroblastoma cells have been found to contain trace amounts of endogenous morphine.
Society and culture
- In Australia, morphine is classified as a Schedule 8 drug under the variously titled State and Territory Poisons Acts.
- In Canada, morphine is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
- In France, morphine is in the strictest schedule of controlled substances, based upon the December 1970 French controlled substances law.
- In Germany, morphine is a verkehrsfähiges und verschreibungsfähiges Betäubungsmittel listed under Anlage III (the equivalent of CSA Schedule II) of the Betäubungsmittelgesetz.
- In Switzerland, morphine is scheduled similarly to Germany's legal classification of the drug.
- In Japan, morphine is classified as a narcotic under the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Act (麻薬及び向精神薬取締法, mayaku oyobi kōseishinyaku torishimarihō).
- In the Netherlands, morphine is classified as a List 1 drug under the Opium Law.
- In the United Kingdom, morphine is listed as a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and a Schedule 2 Controlled Drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
- In the United States, morphine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act under main Administrative Controlled Substances Code Number 9300. Morphine pharmaceuticals are subject to annual manufacturing quotas; in 2017 these quotas were 35.0 tonnes of production for sale, and 27.3 tonnes of production as an intermediate, or chemical precursor, for conversion into other drugs. Morphine produced for use in extremely dilute formulations is excluded from the manufacturing quota.
- Internationally (UN), morphine is a Schedule I drug under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
The euphoria, comprehensive alleviation of distress and therefore all aspects of suffering, promotion of sociability and empathy, "body high", and anxiolysis provided by narcotic drugs including the opioids can cause the use of high doses in the absence of pain for a protracted period, which can impart a morbid craving for the drug in the user. Being the prototype of the entire opioid class of drugs means that morphine has properties that may lead it to misuse. Morphine addiction is the model upon which the current perception of addiction is based.[medical citation needed]
Animal and human studies and clinical experience back up the contention that morphine is one of the most euphoric drugs known, and via all but the IV route heroin and morphine cannot be distinguished according to studies because heroin is a prodrug for the delivery of systemic morphine. Chemical changes to the morphine molecule yield other euphorigenics such as dihydromorphine, hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Hydal), and oxymorphone (Numorphan, Opana), as well as the latter three's methylated equivalents dihydrocodeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, respectively; in addition to heroin, there are dipropanoylmorphine, diacetyldihydromorphine, and other members of the 3,6 morphine diester category like nicomorphine and other similar semi-synthetic opiates like desomorphine, hydromorphinol, etc. used clinically in many countries of the world but in many cases also produced illicitly in rare instances.[medical citation needed]
In general, non-medical use of morphine entails taking more than prescribed or outside of medical supervision, injecting oral formulations, mixing it with unapproved potentiators such as alcohol, cocaine, and the like, or defeating the extended-release mechanism by chewing the tablets or turning into a powder for snorting or preparing injectables. The latter method can be as time-consuming and involved as traditional methods of smoking opium. This and the fact that the liver destroys a large percentage of the drug on the first pass impacts the demand side of the equation for clandestine re-sellers, as many customers are not needle users and may have been disappointed with ingesting the drug orally. As morphine is generally as hard or harder to divert than oxycodone in a lot of cases, morphine in any form is uncommon on the street, although ampoules and phials of morphine injection, pure pharmaceutical morphine powder, and soluble multi-purpose tablets are very popular where available.[medical citation needed]
Morphine is also available in a paste that is used in the production of heroin, which can be smoked by itself or turned to a soluble salt and injected; the same goes for the penultimate products of the Kompot (Polish Heroin) and black tar processes. Poppy straw as well as opium can yield morphine of purity levels ranging from poppy tea to near-pharmaceutical-grade morphine by itself or with all of the more than 50 other alkaloids. It also is the active narcotic ingredient in opium and all of its forms, derivatives, and analogues as well as forming from breakdown of heroin and otherwise present in many batches of illicit heroin as the result of incomplete acetylation.[medical citation needed]
Morphine is marketed under many different brand names in various parts of the world. It was formerly called Morphia in British English.
Informal names for morphine include: Cube Juice, Dope, Dreamer, Emsel, First Line, God's Drug, Hard Stuff, Hocus, Hows, Lydia, Lydic, M, Miss Emma, Mister Blue, Monkey, Morf, Morph, Morphide, Morphie, Morpho, Mother, MS, Ms. Emma, Mud, New Jack Swing (if mixed with heroin), Sister, Tab, Unkie, Unkie White, and Stuff.
MS Contin tablets are known as misties, and the 100 mg extended-release tablets as greys and blockbusters. The "speedball" can use morphine as the opioid component, which is combined with cocaine, amphetamines, methylphenidate, or similar drugs. "Blue Velvet" is a combination of morphine with the antihistamine tripelennamine (Pyrabenzamine, PBZ, Pelamine) taken by injection, or less commonly the mixture when swallowed or used as a retention enema; the name is also known to refer to a combination of tripelennamine and dihydrocodeine or codeine tablets or syrups taken by mouth. "Morphia" is an older official term for morphine also used as a slang term. "Driving Miss Emma" is intravenous administration of morphine. Multi-purpose tablets (readily soluble hypodermic tablets that can also be swallowed or dissolved under the tongue or betwixt the cheek and jaw) are known, as are some brands of hydromorphone, as Shake & Bake or Shake & Shoot.
Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects. Medically they are primarily used for pain relief, including anesthesia. Other medical uses include suppression of diarrhea, replacement therapy for opioid use disorder, reversing opioid overdose, suppressing cough, as well as for executions in the United States. Extremely potent opioids such as carfentanil are approved only for veterinary use. Opioids are also frequently used non-medically for their euphoric effects or to prevent withdrawal.
Side effects of opioids may include itchiness, sedation, nausea, respiratory depression, constipation, and euphoria. Long-term use can cause tolerance, meaning that increased doses are required to achieve the same effect, and physical dependence, meaning that abruptly discontinuing the drug leads to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The euphoria attracts recreational use and frequent, escalating recreational use of opioids typically results in addiction. An overdose or concurrent use with other depressant drugs like benzodiazepines commonly results in death from respiratory depression.
Opioids act by binding to opioid receptors, which are found principally in the central and peripheral nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. These receptors mediate both the psychoactive and the somatic effects of opioids. Opioid drugs include partial agonists, like the anti-diarrhea drug loperamide and antagonists like naloxegol for opioid-induced constipation, which do not cross the blood-brain barrier, but can displace other opioids from binding to those receptors.
Because opioids are addictive and may result in fatal overdose, most are controlled substances. In 2013, between 28 and 38 million people used opioids illicitly (0.6% to 0.8% of the global population between the ages of 15 and 65). In 2011, an estimated 4 million people in the United States used opioids recreationally or were dependent on them. As of 2015, increased rates of recreational use and addiction are attributed to over-prescription of opioid medications and inexpensive illicit heroin. Conversely, fears about over-prescribing, exaggerated side effects and addiction from opioids are similarly blamed for under-treatment of pain.
Opioids include opiates, an older term that refers to such drugs derived from opium, including morphine itself. Other opioids are semi-synthetic and synthetic drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl; antagonist drugs such as naloxone; and endogenous peptides such as the endorphins. The terms opiate and narcotic are sometimes encountered as synonyms for opioid. Opiate is properly limited to the natural alkaloids found in the resin of the opium poppy although some include semi-synthetic derivatives.Narcotic, derived from words meaning 'numbness' or 'sleep', as an American legal term, refers to cocaine and opioids, and their source materials; it is also loosely applied to any illegal or controlled psychoactive drug. In some jurisdictions all controlled drugs are legally classified as narcotics. The term can have pejorative connotations and its use is generally discouraged where that is the case.
The weak opioid codeine, in low doses and combined with one or more other drugs, is commonly available without a prescription and can be used to treat mild pain. Other opioids are usually reserved for the relief of moderate to severe pain.
Opioids are effective for the treatment of acute pain (such as pain following surgery). For immediate relief of moderate to severe acute pain opioids are frequently the treatment of choice due to their rapid onset, efficacy and reduced risk of dependence. However a new report showed a clear risk of prolonged opioid use when opioid analgesics are initiated for an acute pain management following surgery or trauma. They have also been found to be important in palliative care to help with the severe, chronic, disabling pain that may occur in some terminal conditions such as cancer, and degenerative conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. In many cases opioids are a successful long-term care strategy for those with chronic cancer pain.
Just over half of all states in the US have enacted laws that restrict the prescribing or dispensing of opioids for acute pain.
Chronic non-cancer pain
Guidelines have suggested that the risk of opioids is likely greater than their benefits when used for most non-cancer chronic conditions including headaches, back pain, and fibromyalgia. Thus they should be used cautiously in chronic non-cancer pain. If used the benefits and harms should be reassessed at least every three months.
In treating chronic pain, opioids are an option to be tried after other less risky pain relievers have been considered, including paracetamol/acetaminophen or NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen. Some types of chronic pain, including the pain caused by fibromyalgia or migraine, are preferentially treated with drugs other than opioids. The efficacy of using opioids to lessen chronic neuropathic pain is uncertain.
Opioids are contraindicated as a first-line treatment for headache because they impair alertness, bring risk of dependence, and increase the risk that episodic headaches will become chronic. Opioids can also cause heightened sensitivity to headache pain. When other treatments fail or are unavailable, opioids may be appropriate for treating headache if the patient can be monitored to prevent the development of chronic headache.
Opioids are being used more frequently in the management of non-malignant chronic pain. This practice has now led to a new and growing problem with addiction and misuse of opioids. Because of various negative effects the use of opioids for long-term management of chronic pain is not indicated unless other less risky pain relievers have been found ineffective. Chronic pain which occurs only periodically, such as that from nerve pain, migraines, and fibromyalgia, frequently is better treated with medications other than opioids.Paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen and naproxen are considered safer alternatives. They are frequently used combined with opioids, such as paracetamol combined with oxycodone (Percocet) and ibuprofen combined with hydrocodone (Vicoprofen), which boosts the pain relief but is also intended to deter recreational use.
Codeine was once viewed as the "gold standard" in cough suppressants, but this position is now questioned. Some recent placebo-controlled trials have found that it may be no better than a placebo for some causes including acute cough in children. Thus, it is not recommended for children. Additionally, there is no evidence that hydrocodone is useful in children. Similarly, a 2012 Dutch guideline regarding the treatment of acute cough does not recommend its use. (The opioid analogue dextromethorphan, long claimed to be as effective a cough suppressant as codeine, has similarly demonstrated little benefit in several recent studies.)
Low dose morphine may help chronic cough but its use is limited by side effects.
Diarrhea and constipation
In cases of diarrhea-predominate irritable bowel syndrome, opioids may be used to suppress diarrhea. Loperamide is a peripherally selective opioid available without a prescription used to suppress diarrhea.
The ability to suppress diarrhea also produces constipation when opioids are used beyond several weeks.Naloxegol, a peripherally-selective opioid antagonist is now available to treat opioid induced constipation.
Shortness of breath
Opioids may help with shortness of breath particularly in advanced diseases such as cancer and COPD among others. However, findings from two recent systematic reviews of the literature found that opioids were not necessarily more effective in treating shortness of breath in patients who have advanced cancer.
Opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH) has been evident in patients after chronic opioid exposure.
Adverse effects of opioids
Common and short term
69,000 people worldwide die of opioid overdose each year and 15 million people have an opioid addiction.
See also: Opioid overdose
In older adults, opioid use is associated with increased adverse effects such as "sedation, nausea, vomiting, constipation, urinary retention, and falls". As a result, older adults taking opioids are at greater risk for injury. Opioids do not cause any specific organ toxicity, unlike many other drugs, such as aspirin and paracetamol. They are not associated with upper gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney toxicity.
Prescription of opioids for acute low back pain and management of osteoarthritis seem to have long-term adverse effects
According to the USCDC, methadone was involved in 31% of opioid related deaths in the US between 1999–2010 and 40% as the sole drug involved, far higher than other opioids. Studies of long term opioids have found that may stop them and minor side effects were common. Addiction occurred in about 0.3%. In the United States in 2016 opioid overdose resulted in the death of 1.7 in 10,000 people.
In the US charts below many deaths involve multiple opioids:
Main article: Opioid use disorder
Tolerance is a process characterized by neuroadaptations that result in reduced drug effects. While receptor upregulation may often play an important role other mechanisms are also known. Tolerance is more pronounced for some effects than for others; tolerance occurs slowly to the effects on mood, itching, urinary retention, and respiratory depression, but occurs more quickly to the analgesia and other physical side effects. However, tolerance does not develop to constipation or miosis (the constriction of the pupil of the eye to less than or equal to two millimeters). This idea has been challenged, however, with some authors arguing that tolerance does develop to miosis.
Tolerance to opioids is attenuated by a number of substances, including:
Tolerance is a physiologic process where the body adjusts to a medication that is frequently present, usually requiring higher doses of the same medication over time to achieve the same effect. It is a common occurrence in individuals taking high doses of opioids for extended periods, but does not predict any relationship to misuse or addiction.
Physical dependence is the physiological adaptation of the body to the presence of a substance, in this case opioid medication. It is defined by the development of withdrawal symptoms when the substance is discontinued, when the dose is reduced abruptly or, specifically in the case of opioids, when an antagonist (e.g., naloxone) or an agonist-antagonist (e.g., pentazocine) is administered. Physical dependence is a normal and expected aspect of certain medications and does not necessarily imply that the patient is addicted.
The withdrawal symptoms for opiates may include severe dysphoria, craving for another opiate dose, irritability, sweating, nausea, rhinorrea, tremor, vomiting and myalgia. Slowly reducing the intake of opioids over days and weeks can reduce or eliminate the withdrawal symptoms. The speed and severity of withdrawal depends on the half-life of the opioid; heroin and morphine withdrawal occur more quickly than methadone withdrawal. The acute withdrawal phase is often followed by a protracted phase of depression and insomnia that can last for months. The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be treated with other medications, such as clonidine. Physical dependence does not predict drug misuse or true addiction, and is closely related to the same mechanism as tolerance. While there is anecdotal claims of benefit with ibogaine, data to support its use in substance dependence is poor.
Critical patients who received regular doses of opioids experience Iatrogenic withdrawal as a frequent syndrome.
Drug addiction is a complex set of behaviors typically associated with misuse of certain drugs, developing over time and with higher drug dosages. Addiction includes psychological compulsion, to the extent that the sufferer persists in actions leading to dangerous or unhealthy outcomes. Opioid addiction includes insufflation or injection, rather than taking opioids orally as prescribed for medical reasons.
In European nations such as Austria, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, slow-release oral morphine formulations are used in opiate substitution therapy (OST) for patients who do not well tolerate the side effects of buprenorphine or methadone. buprenorphine can also be used together with naloxone for a longer treatment of addiction. / In other European countries including the UK, this is also legally used for OST although on a varying scale of acceptance.
Slow-release formulations of medications are intended to curb misuse and lower addiction rates while trying to still provide legitimate pain relief and ease of use to pain patients. Questions remain, however, about the efficacy and safety of these types of preparations. Further tamper resistant medications are currently under consideration with trials for market approval by the FDA.
The amount of evidence available only permits making a weak conclusion, but it suggests that a physician properly managing opioid use in patients with no history of substance use disorder can give long-term pain relief with little risk of developing addiction, or other serious side effects.
Problems with opioids include the following:
- Some people find that opioids do not relieve all of their pain.
- Some people find that opioids side effects cause problems which outweigh the therapy's benefit
- Some people build tolerance to opioids over time. This requires them to increase their drug dosage to maintain the benefit, and that in turn also increases the unwanted side effects.
- Long-term opioid use can cause opioid-induced hyperalgesia, which is a condition in which the patient has increased sensitivity to pain.
All of the opioids can cause side effects. Common adverse reactions in patients taking opioids for pain relief include nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, itching, dry mouth, dizziness, and constipation.
Nausea and vomiting
Tolerance to nausea occurs within 7–10 days, during which antiemetics (e.g. low dose haloperidol once at night) are very effective. Due to severe side effects such as tardive dyskinesia, haloperidol is now rarely used. A related drug, prochlorperazine is more often used, although it has similar risks. Stronger antiemetics such as ondansetron or tropisetron are sometimes used when nausea is severe or continuous and disturbing, despite their greater cost. A less expensive alternative is dopamine antagonists such as domperidone and metoclopramide. Domperidone does not cross the blood–brain barrier and produce adverse central antidopaminergic effects, but blocks opioid emetic action in the chemoreceptor trigger zone. (The drug is not available in the U.S.) Some antihistamines with anticholinergic properties (e.g. orphenadrine or diphenhydramine) may also be effective. The first-generation antihistamine hydroxyzine is very commonly used, with the added advantages of not causing movement disorders, and also possessing analgesic-sparing properties. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol relieves nausea and vomiting; it also produces analgesia that may allow lower doses of opioids with reduced nausea and vomiting.
Vomiting is due to gastric stasis (large volume vomiting, brief nausea relieved by vomiting, oesophageal reflux, epigastric fullness, early satiation), besides direct action on the chemoreceptor trigger zone of the area postrema, the vomiting centre of the brain. Vomiting can thus be prevented by prokinetic agents (e.g.domperidone or metoclopramide). If vomiting has already started, these drugs need to be administered by a non-oral route (e.g. subcutaneous for metoclopramide, rectally for domperidone).
Evidence suggests that opioid-inclusive anaesthesia is associated with postoperative nausea and vomiting.
Patients with chronic pain using opioids had small improvements in pain and physically functioning and increased risk of vomiting.
Tolerance to drowsiness usually develops over 5–7 days, but if troublesome, switching to an alternative opioid often helps. Certain opioids such as fentanyl, morphine and diamorphine (heroin) tend to be particularly sedating, while others such as oxycodone, tilidine and meperidine (pethidine) tend to produce comparatively less sedation, but individual patients responses can vary markedly and some degree of trial and error may be needed to find the most suitable drug for a particular patient. Otherwise, treatment with CNSstimulants is generally effective.
Itching tends not to be a severe problem when opioids are used for pain relief, but antihistamines are useful for counteracting itching when it occurs. Non-sedating antihistamines such as fexofenadine are often preferred as they avoid increasing opioid induced drowsiness. However, some sedating antihistamines such as orphenadrine can produce a synergistic pain relieving effect permitting smaller doses of opioids be used. Consequently, several opioid/antihistamine combination products have been marketed, such as Meprozine (meperidine/promethazine) and Diconal (dipipanone/cyclizine), and these may also reduce opioid induced nausea.
Opioid-induced constipation (OIC) develops in 90 to 95% of people taking opioids long-term. Since tolerance to this problem does not generally develop, most people on long-term opioids need to take a laxative or enemas.
Treatment of OIC is successional and dependent on severity. The first mode of treatment is non-pharmacological, and includes lifestyle modifications like increasing dietary fiber, fluid intake (around 1.5 L (51 US fl oz) per day), and physical activity. If non-pharmacological measures are ineffective, laxatives, including stool softeners (e.g., polyethylene glycol), bulk-forming laxatives (e.g., fiber supplements), stimulant laxatives (e.g., bisacodyl, senna), and/or enemas, may be used. A common laxative regimen for OIC is the combination of docusate and bisacodyl.[needs update]Osmotic laxatives, including lactulose, polyethylene glycol, and milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide), as well as mineral oil (a lubricant laxative), are also commonly used for OIC.
If laxatives are insufficiently effective (which is often the case), opioid formulations or regimens that include a peripherally-selective opioid antagonist, such as methylnaltrexone bromide, naloxegol, alvimopan, or naloxone (as in oxycodone/naloxone), may be tried. A 2018 Cochrane review found that the evidence was tentative for alvimopan, naloxone, or methylnaltrexone bromide. Naloxone by mouth appears to be the most effective. A daily 0.2mg dose of naldemedine has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in patients with OIC.
Opioid rotation is one method suggested to minimise the impact of constipation in long-term users. While all opioids cause constipation, there are some differences between drugs, with studies suggesting tramadol, tapentadol, methadone and fentanyl may cause relatively less constipation, while with codeine, morphine, oxycodone or hydromorphone constipation may be comparatively more severe.
Respiratory depression is the most serious adverse reaction associated with opioid use, but it usually is seen with the use of a single, intravenous dose in an opioid-naïve patient. In patients taking opioids regularly for pain relief, tolerance to respiratory depression occurs rapidly, so that it is not a clinical problem. Several drugs have been developed which can partially block respiratory depression, although the only respiratory stimulant currently approved for this purpose is doxapram, which has only limited efficacy in this application. Newer drugs such as BIMU-8 and CX-546 may be much more effective.[non-primary source needed]
- Respiratory stimulants: carotid chemoreceptor agonists (e.g.doxapram), 5-HT4 agonists (e.g.BIMU8), δ-opioid agonists (e.g.BW373U86) and AMPAkines (e.g.CX717) can all reduce respiratory depression caused by opioids without affecting analgesia, but most of these drugs are only moderately effective or have side effects which preclude use in humans. 5-HT1A agonists such as 8-OH-DPAT and repinotan also counteract opioid-induced respiratory depression, but at the same time reduce analgesia, which limits their usefulness for this application.
- Opioid antagonists (e.g.naloxone, nalmefene, diprenorphine)
The initial 24 hours after opioid administration appear to be the most critical with regard to life-threatening OIRD, but may be preventable with a more cautious approach to opioid use.
Patients with cardiac, respiratory disease and/or obstructive sleep apnoea are at increased risk for OIRD.
Increased pain sensitivity
Main article: Opioid-induced hyperalgesia
Opioid-induced hyperalgesia – where individuals using opioids to relieve pain paradoxically experience more pain as a result of that medication – has been observed in some people. This phenomenon, although uncommon, is seen in some people receiving palliative care, most often when dose is increased rapidly. If encountered, rotation between several different opioid pain medications may decrease the development of increased pain. Opioid induced hyperalgesia more commonly occurs with chronic use or brief high doses but some research suggests that it may also occur with very low doses.
Side effects such as hyperalgesia and allodynia, sometimes accompanied by a worsening of neuropathic pain, may be consequences of long-term treatment with opioid analgesics, especially when increasing tolerance has resulted in loss of efficacy and consequent progressive dose escalation over time. This appears to largely be a result of actions of opioid drugs at targets other than the three classic opioid receptors, including the nociceptin receptor, sigma receptor and Toll-like receptor 4, and can be counteracted in animal models by antagonists at these targets such as J-113,397, BD-1047 or (+)-naloxone respectively. No drugs are currently approved specifically for counteracting opioid-induced hyperalgesia in humans and in severe cases the only solution may be to discontinue use of opioid analgesics and replace them with non-opioid analgesic drugs. However, since individual sensitivity to the development of this side effect is highly dose dependent and may vary depending which opioid analgesic is used, many patients can avoid this side effect simply through dose reduction of the opioid drug (usually accompanied by the addition of a supplemental non-opioid analgesic), rotating between different opioid drugs, or by switching to a milder opioid with a mixed mode of action that also counteracts neuropathic pain, particularly tramadol or tapentadol.
Other adverse effects
Low sex hormone levels
Clinical studies have consistently associated medical and recreational opioid use with hypogonadism (low sex hormone levels) in different sexes. The effect is dose-dependent. Most studies suggest that the majority (perhaps as much as 90%) of chronic opioid users suffer from hypogonadism. Opioids can also interfere with menstruation in women by limiting the production of luteinizing hormone (LH). Opioid-induced hypogonadism likely causes the strong association of opioid use with osteoporosis and bone fracture, due to deficiency in estradiol. It also may increase pain and thereby interfere with the intended clinical effect of opioid treatment. Opioid-induced hypogonadism is likely caused by their agonism of opioid receptors in the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. One study found that the depressed testosterone levels of heroin addicts returned to normal within one month of abstinence, suggesting that the effect is readily reversible and is not permanent. As of 2013[update], the effect of low-dose or acute opioid use on the endocrine system is unclear. Long-term use of opioids can affect the other hormonal systems as well.
Disruption of work
Use of opioids may be a risk factor for failing to return to work.
Persons performing any safety-sensitive task should not use opioids. Health care providers should not recommend that workers who drive or use heavy equipment including cranes or forklifts treat chronic or acute pain with opioids. Workplaces which manage workers who perform safety-sensitive operations should assign workers to less sensitive duties for so long as those workers are treated by their physician with opioids.
People who take opioids long term have increased likelihood of being unemployed. Taking opioids may further disrupt the patient's life and the adverse effects of opioids themselves can become a significant barrier to patients having an active life, gaining employment, and sustaining a career.
In addition, lack of employment may be a predictor of aberrant use of prescription opioids.
Opioid use may increase accident-proneness. Opioids may increase risk of traffic accidents and accidental falls.
Opioids have been shown to reduce attention, more so when used with antidepressants and/or anticonvulsants.
Infrequent adverse reactions in patients taking opioids for pain relief include: dose-related respiratory depression (especially with more potent opioids), confusion, hallucinations, delirium, urticaria, hypothermia, bradycardia/tachycardia, orthostatic hypotension, dizziness, headache, urinary retention, ureteric or biliary spasm, muscle rigidity, myoclonus (with high doses), and flushing (due to histamine release, except fentanyl and remifentanil). Both therapeutic and chronic use of opioids can compromise the function of the immune system. Opioids decrease the proliferation of macrophage progenitor cells and lymphocytes, and affect cell differentiation (Roy & Loh, 1996). Opioids may also inhibit leukocyte migration. However the relevance of this in the context of pain relief is not known.
Physicians treating patients using opioids in combination with other drugs keep continual documentation that further treatment is indicated and remain aware of opportunities to adjust treatment if the patient's condition changes to merit less risky therapy.
With other depressant drugs
The concurrent use of opioids with other depressant drugs such as benzodiazepines or ethanol increases the rates of adverse events and overdose. The concurrent use of opioids with other depressant drugs such as benzodiazepines or ethanol increases the rates of adverse events and overdose. Yet, opioids and benzodiazepines are concurrently dispensed in many settings. As with an overdose of opioid alone, the combination of an opioid and another depressant may precipitate respiratory depression often leading to death. These risks are lessened with close monitoring by a physician, who may conduct ongoing screening for changes in patient behavior and treatment compliance.
Main article: Opioid antagonist
Opioid effects (adverse or otherwise) can be reversed with an opioid antagonist such as naloxone or naltrexone. These competitive antagonists bind to the opioid receptors with higher affinity than agonists but do not activate the receptors. This displaces the agonist, attenuating or reversing the agonist effects. However, the elimination half-life of naloxone can be shorter than that of the opioid itself, so repeat dosing or continuous infusion may be required, or a longer acting antagonist such as nalmefene may be used. In patients taking opioids regularly it is essential that the opioid is only partially reversed to avoid a severe and distressing reaction of waking in excruciating pain. This is achieved by not giving a full dose but giving this in small doses until the respiratory rate has improved. An infusion is then started to keep the reversal at that level, while maintaining pain relief. Opioid antagonists remain the standard treatment for respiratory depression following opioid overdose, with naloxone being by far the most commonly used, although the longer acting antagonist nalmefene may be used for treating overdoses of long-acting opioids such as methadone, and diprenorphine is used for reversing the effects of extremely potent opioids used in veterinary medicine such as etorphine and carfentanil. However, since opioid antagonists also block the beneficial effects of opioid analgesics, they are generally useful only for treating overdose, with use of opioid antagonists alongside opioid analgesics to reduce side effects, requiring careful dose titration and often being poorly effective at doses low enough to allow analgesia to be maintained.
Naltrexone does not appear to increase risk of serious adverse events, which confirms the safety of oral naltrexone. Mortality or serious adverse events due to rebound toxicity in patients with naloxone were rare.
See also: Opioid receptor
Opioids bind to specific opioid receptors in the nervous system and other tissues. There are three principal classes of opioid receptors, μ, κ, δ (mu, kappa, and delta), although up to seventeen have been reported, and include the ε, ι, λ, and ζ (Epsilon, Iota, Lambda and Zeta) receptors. Conversely, σ (Sigma) receptors are no longer considered to be opioid receptors because their activation is not reversed by the opioid inverse-agonist naloxone, they do not exhibit high-affinity binding for classical opioids, and they are stereoselective for dextro-rotatoryisomers while the other opioid receptors are stereo-selective for levo-rotatory isomers. In addition, there are three subtypes of μ-receptor: μ1 and μ2, and the newly discovered μ3. Another receptor of clinical importance is the opioid-receptor-like receptor 1 (ORL1), which is involved in pain responses as well as having a major role in the development of tolerance to μ-opioid agonists used as analgesics. These are all G-protein coupled receptors acting on GABAergicneurotransmission.
The pharmacodynamic response to an opioid depends upon the receptor to which it binds, its affinity for that receptor, and whether the opioid is an agonist or an antagonist. For example, the supraspinal analgesic properties of the opioid agonist morphine are mediated by activation of the μ1 receptor; respiratory depression and physical dependence by the μ2 receptor; and sedation and spinal analgesia by the κ receptor. Each group of opioid receptors elicits a distinct set of neurological responses, with the receptor subtypes (such as μ1 and μ2 for example) providing even more [measurably] specific responses. Unique to each opioid is its distinct binding affinity to the various classes of opioid receptors (e.g. the μ, κ, and δ opioid receptors are activated at different magnitudes according to the specific receptor binding affinities of the opioid). For example, the opiate alkaloid morphine exhibits high-affinity binding to the μ-opioid receptor, while ketazocine exhibits high affinity to ĸ receptors. It is this combinatorial mechanism that allows for such a wide class of opioids and molecular designs to exist, each with its own unique effect profile. Their individual molecular structure is also responsible for their different duration of action, whereby metabolic breakdown (such as N-dealkylation) is responsible for opioid metabolism.
A new strategy of drug development takes receptor signal transduction into consideration. This strategy strives to increase the activation of desirable signalling pathways while reducing the impact on undesirable pathways. This differential strategy has been given several names, including functional selectivity and biased agonism. The first opioid that was intentionally designed as a biased agonist and placed into clinical evaluation is the drug oliceridine. It displays analgesic activity and reduced adverse effects.
Main article: Equianalgesic
Extensive research has been conducted to determine equivalence ratios comparing the relative potency of opioids. Given a dose of an opioid, an equianalgesic table is used to find the equivalent dosage of another. Such tables are used in opioid rotation practices, and to describe an opioid by comparison to morphine, the reference opioid. Equianalgesic tables typically list drug half-lives, and sometimes equianalgesic doses of the same drug by means of administration, such as morphine: oral and intravenous.
|Values are Ki (nM), unless otherwise noted. The smaller the value, the more strongly the drug binds to the site. Assays were done mostly with cloned or cultured rodent receptors.|
Opioid prescriptions in the US increased from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013.
In the 1990s, opioid prescribing increased significantly. Once used almost exclusively for the treatment of acute pain or pain due to cancer, opioids are now prescribed liberally for people experiencing chronic pain. This has been accompanied by rising rates of accidental addiction and accidental overdoses leading to death. According to the International Narcotics Control Board, the United States and Canada lead the per capita consumption of prescription opioids. The number of opioid prescriptions per capita in the United States and Canada is double the consumption in the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand. Certain populations have been affected by the opioid addiction crisis more than others, including First World communities and low-income populations. Public health specialists say that this may result from the unavailability or high cost of alternative methods for addressing chronic pain. Opioids have been described as a cost-effective treatment for chronic pain, but the impact of the opioid epidemic and deaths caused by opioid overdoses should be considered in assessing their cost-effectiveness. Data from 2017 suggest that that in the U.S. about 3.4 percent of the U.S. population are prescribed opioids for daily pain management. Calls for opioid deprescribing have led to broad scale opioid tapering practices with little scientific evidence to support the safety or benefit for patients with chronic pain.
Naturally occurring opioids
Opioids are among the world's oldest known drugs. The earliest known evidence of Papaver somniferum in a human archaeological site dates to the Neolithic period around 5,700–5,500 BC. Its seeds have been found at Cueva de los Murciélagos in the Iberian Peninsula and La Marmotta in the Italian Peninsula.
Use of the opium poppy for medical, recreational, and religious purposes can be traced to the 4th century BC, when ideograms on Sumerians clay tablets mention the use of "Hul Gil", a "plant of joy". Opium was known to the Egyptians, and is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus as an ingredient in a mixture for the soothing of children, and for the treatment of breast abscesses.
Opium was also known to the Greeks. It was valued by Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) and his students for its sleep-inducing properties, and used for the treatment of pain. The Latin saying "Sedare dolorem opus divinum est", trans. "Alleviating pain is the work of the divine", has been variously ascribed to Hippocrates and to Galen of Pergamum. The medical use of opium is later discussed by Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40 – 90 AD), a Greek physician serving in the Roman army, in his five-volume work, De Materia Medica.
During the Islamic Golden Age, the use of opium was discussed in detail by Avicenna (c. 980 – June 1037 AD) in The Canon of Medicine. The book's five volumes include information on opium's preparation, an array of physical effects, its use to treat a variety of illness, contraindications for its use, its potential danger as a poison and its potential for addiction. Avicenna discouraged opium's use except as a last resort, preferring to address the causes of pain rather than trying to minimize it with analgesics. Many of Avicenna's observations have been supported by modern medical research.
Exactly when the world became aware of opium in India and China is uncertain, but opium was mentioned in the Chinese medical work K'ai-pao-pen-tsdo (973 AD) By 1590 AD, opium poppies were a staple spring crop in the Subahs of Agra region.
The physician Paracelsus (ca.1493–1541) is often credited with reintroducing opium into medical use in Western Europe, during the German Renaissance. He extolled opium's benefits for medical use. He also claimed to have an "arcanum", a pill which he called laudanum, that was superior to all others, particularly when death was to be cheated. ("Ich hab' ein Arcanum – heiss' ich Laudanum, ist über das Alles, wo es zum Tode reichen will.") Later writers have asserted that Paracelsus' recipe for laudanum contained opium, but its composition remains unknown.
The term laudanum was used generically for a useful medicine until the 17th century. After Thomas Sydenham introduced the first liquid tincture of opium, "laudanum" came to mean a mixture of both opium and alcohol. Sydenham's 1669 recipe for laudanum mixed opium with wine, saffron, clove and cinnamon. Sydenham's laudanum was used widely in both Europe and the Americas until the 20th century. Other popular medicines, based on opium, included Paregoric, a much milder liquid preparation for children; Black-drop, a stronger preparation; and Dover's powder.
The opium trade
Opium became a major colonial commodity, moving legally and illegally through trade networks involving India, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and China, among others. The British East India Company saw the opium trade as an investment opportunity in 1683 AD. In 1773 the Governor of Bengal established a monopoly on the production of Bengal opium, on behalf of the East India Company. The cultivation and manufacture of Indian opium was further centralized and controlled through a series of acts, between 1797 and 1949. The British balanced an economic deficit from the importation of Chinese tea by selling Indian opium which was smuggled into China in defiance of Chinese government bans. This led to the First (1839–1842) and Second Opium Wars (1856–1860) between China and Britain.
In the 19th century, two major scientific advances were made that had far-reaching effects. Around 1804, German pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner isolated morphine from opium. He described its crystallization, structure, and pharmacological properties in a well-received paper in 1817. Morphine was the first alkaloid to be isolated from any medicinal plant, the beginning of modern scientific drug discovery.
The second advance, nearly fifty years later, was the refinement of the hypodermic needle by Alexander Wood and others. Development of a glass syringe with a subcutaneous needle made it possible to easily administer controlled measurable doses of a primary active compound.
Morphine was initially hailed as a wonder drug for its ability to ease pain. It could help people sleep, and had other useful side effects, including control of coughing and diarrhea. It was widely prescribed by doctors, and dispensed without restriction by pharmacists. During the American Civil War, opium and laudanum were used extensively to treat soldiers. It was also prescribed frequently for women, for menstrual pain and diseases of a "nervous character".: 85 At first it was assumed (wrongly) that this new method of application would not be addictive.
Codeine was discovered in 1832 by Pierre Jean Robiquet. Robiquet was reviewing a method for morphine extraction, described by Scottish chemist William Gregory (1803–1858). Processing the residue left from Gregory's procedure, Robiquet isolated a crystalline substance from the other active components of opium. He wrote of his discovery: "Here is a new substance found in opium ... We know that morphine, which so far has been thought to be the only active principle of opium, does not account for all the effects and for a long time the physiologists are claiming that there is a gap that has to be filled." His discovery of the alkaloid led to the development of a generation of antitussive and antidiarrheal medicines based on codeine.
Semisynthetic and synthetic opioids
Synthetic opioids were invented, and biological mechanisms for their actions discovered, in the 20th century. Scientists have searched for non-addictive forms of opioids, but have created stronger ones instead. In England Charles Romley Alder Wright developed hundreds of opiate compounds in his search for a nonaddictive opium derivative. In 1874 he became the first person to synthesize diamorphine (heroin), using a process called acetylation which involved boiling morphine with acetic anhydride for several hours.
Heroin received little attention until it was independently synthesized by Felix Hoffmann (1868–1946), working for Heinrich Dreser (1860–1924) at Bayer Laboratories. Dreser brought the new drug to market as an analgesic and a cough treatment for tuberculosis, bronchitis, and asthma in 1898. Bayer ceased production in 1913, after heroin's addictive potential was recognized.
Several semi-synthetic opioids were developed in Germany in the 1910s. The first, oxymorphone, was synthesized from thebaine, an opioid alkaloid in opium poppies, in 1914. Next, Martin Freund and Edmund Speyer developed oxycodone, also from thebaine, at the University of Frankfurt in 1916. In 1920, hydrocodone was prepared by Carl Mannich and Helene Löwenheim, deriving it from codeine. In 1924, hydromorphone was synthesized by adding hydrogen to morphine. Etorphine was synthesized in 1960, from the oripavine in opium poppy straw. Buprenorphine was discovered in 1972.
The first fully synthetic opioid was meperidine (later demerol), found serendipitously by German chemist Otto Eisleb (or Eislib) at IG Farben in 1932. Meperidine was the first opiate to have a structure unrelated to morphine, but with opiate-like properties. Its analgesic effects were discovered by Otto Schaumann in 1939.Gustav Ehrhart and Max Bockmühl, also at IG Farben, built on the work of Eisleb and Schaumann. They developed "Hoechst 10820" (later methadone) around 1937. In 1959 the Belgian physician Paul Janssen developed fentanyl, a synthetic drug with 30 to 50 times the potency of heroin. Nearly 150 synthetic opioids are now known.
Criminalization and medical use
Non-clinical use of opium was criminalized in the United States by the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, and by many other laws. The use of opioids was stigmatized, and it was seen as a dangerous substance, to be prescribed only as a last resort for dying patients. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 eventually relaxed the harshness of the Harrison Act.
In the United Kingdom the 1926 report of the Departmental Committee on Morphine and Heroin Addiction under the Chairmanship of the President of the Royal College of Physicians reasserted medical control and established the "British system" of control—which lasted until the 1960s.
In the 1980s the World Health Organization published guidelines for prescribing drugs, including opioids, for different levels of pain. In the U.S., Kathleen Foley and Russell Portenoy became leading advocates for the liberal use of opioids as painkillers for cases of "intractable non-malignant pain". With little or no scientific evidence to support their claims, industry scientists and advocates suggested that chronic pain sufferers would be resistant to addiction.
The release of OxyContin in 1996 was accompanied by an aggressive marketing campaign promoting the use of opioids for pain relief. Increasing prescription of opioids fueled a growing black market for heroin. Between 2000 and 2014 there was an "alarming increase in heroin use across the country and an epidemic of drug overdose deaths".
As a result, health care organizations and public health groups, such as Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, have called for decreases in the prescription of opioids. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new set of guidelines for the prescription of opioids "for chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care" and the increase of opioid tapering.
"Remove the Risk"
In April 2019 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the launch of a new education campaign to help Americans understand the important role they play in removing and properly disposing of unused prescription opioids from their homes. This new initiative is part of the FDA's continued efforts to address the nationwide opioid crisis (see below) and aims to help decrease unnecessary exposure to opioids and prevent new addiction. The “Remove the Risk” campaign is targeting women ages 35–64, who are most likely to oversee household health care decisions and often serve as the gatekeepers to opioids and other prescription medications in the home.
Society and culture
Main article: Opioid epidemic
The term "opioid" originated in the 1950s. It combines "opium" + "-oid" meaning "opiate-like" ("opiates" being morphine and similar drugs derived from opium). The first scientific publication to use it, in 1963, included a footnote stating, "In this paper, the term, 'opioid', is used in the sense originally proposed by George H. Acheson (personal communication) to refer to any chemical compound with morphine-like activities". By the late 1960s, research found that opiate effects are mediated by activation of specific molecular receptors in the nervous system, which were termed "opioid receptors". The definition of "opioid" was later refined to refer to substances that have morphine-like activities that are mediated by the activation of opioid receptors. One modern pharmacology textbook states: "the term opioid applies to all agonists and antagonists with morphine-like activity, and also the naturally occurring and synthetic opioid peptides". Another pharmacology reference eliminates the morphine-like requirement: "Opioid, a more modern term, is used to designate all substances, both natural and synthetic, that bind to opioid receptors (including antagonists)". Some sources define the term opioid to exclude opiates, and others use opiate comprehensively instead of opioid, but opioid used inclusively is considered modern, preferred and is in wide use.
Efforts to reduce recreational use in the US
In 2011, the Obama administration released a white paper describing the administration's plan to deal with the opioid crisis. The administration's concerns about addiction and accidental overdosing have been echoed by numerous other medical and government advisory groups around the world.
As of 2015, prescription drug monitoring programs exist in every state, except for Missouri. These programs allow pharmacists and prescribers to access patients' prescription histories in order to identify suspicious use. However, a survey of US physicians published in 2015 found that only 53% of doctors used these programs, while 22% were not aware that the programs were available to them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was tasked with establishing and publishing a new guideline, and was heavily lobbied. In 2016, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published its Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, recommending that opioids only be used when benefits for pain and function are expected to outweigh risks, and then used at the lowest effective dosage, with avoidance of concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine use whenever possible. Research suggests that the prescription of high doses of opioids related to chronic opioid therapy (COT) can at times be prevented through state legislative guidelines and efforts by health plans that devote resources and establish shared expectations for reducing higher doses.
On 10 August 2017, Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a (non-FEMA) national public health emergency.
Morphine and other poppy-based medicines have been identified by the World Health Organization as essential in the treatment of severe pain. As of 2002, seven countries (USA, UK, Italy, Australia, France, Spain and Japan) use 77% of the world's morphine supplies, leaving many emerging countries lacking in pain relief medication. The current system of supply of raw poppy materials to make poppy-based medicines is regulated by the International Narcotics Control Board under the provision of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The amount of raw poppy materials that each country can demand annually based on these provisions must correspond to an estimate of the country's needs taken from the national consumption within the preceding two years. In many countries, underprescription of morphine is rampant because of the high prices and the lack of training in the prescription of poppy-based drugs. The World Health Organization is now working with administrations from various countries to train healthworkers and to develop national regulations regarding drug prescription to facilitate a greater prescription of poppy-based medicines.
Another idea to increase morphine availability is proposed by the Senlis Council, who suggest, through their proposal for Afghan Morphine, that Afghanistan could provide cheap pain relief solutions to emerging countries as part of a second-tier system of supply that would complement the current INCB regulated system by maintaining the balance and closed system that it establishes while providing finished product morphine to those suffering from severe pain and unable to access poppy-based drugs under the current system.
See also: Opioid use disorder and Recreational drug use
Opioids can produce strong feelings of euphoria and are frequently used recreationally. Traditionally associated with illicit opioids such as heroin, prescription opioids are misused recreationally.
Drug misuse and non-medical use include the use of drugs for reasons or at doses other than prescribed. Opioid misuse can also include providing medications to persons for whom it was not prescribed. Such diversion may be treated as crimes, punishable by imprisonment in many countries. In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.[failed verification]
There are a number of broad classes of opioids:
- Natural opiates: alkaloids contained in the resin of the opium poppy, primarily morphine, codeine, and thebaine, but not papaverine and noscapine which have a different mechanism of action; The following could be considered natural opiates: The leaves from Mitragyna speciosa (also known as kratom) contain a few naturally-occurring opioids, active via Mu- and Delta receptors. Salvinorin A, found naturally in the Salvia divinorum plant, is a kappa-opioid receptor agonist.
- Esters of morphine opiates: slightly chemically altered but more natural than the semi-synthetics, as most are morphine prodrugs, diacetylmorphine (morphine diacetate; heroin), nicomorphine (morphine dinicotinate), dipropanoylmorphine (morphine dipropionate), desomorphine, acetylpropionylmorphine, dibenzoylmorphine, diacetyldihydromorphine;
- Semi-synthetic opioids: created from either the natural opiates or morphine esters, such as hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, ethylmorphine and buprenorphine;
- Fully synthetic opioids: such as fentanyl, pethidine, levorphanol, methadone, tramadol, tapentadol, and dextropropoxyphene;
- Endogenous opioid peptides, produced naturally in the body, such as endorphins, enkephalins, dynorphins, and endomorphins. Morphine, and some other opioids, which are produced in small amounts in the body, are included in this category.
Tramadol and tapentadol, which act as monoamine uptake inhibitors also act as mild and potent agonists (respectively) of the μ-opioid receptor. Both drugs produce analgesia even when naloxone, an opioid antagonist, is administered.
Some minor opium alkaloids and various substances with opioid action are also found elsewhere, including molecules present in kratom, Corydalis, and Salvia divinorum plants and some species of poppy aside from Papaver somniferum. There are also strains which produce copious amounts of thebaine, an important raw material for making many semi-synthetic and synthetic opioids. Of all of the more than 120 poppy species, only two produce morphine.
Amongst analgesics there are a small number of agents which act on the central nervous system but not on the opioid receptor system and therefore have none of the other (narcotic) qualities of opioids although they may produce euphoria by relieving pain—a euphoria that, because of the way it is produced, does not form the basis of habituation, physical dependence, or addiction. Foremost amongst these are nefopam, orphenadrine, and perhaps phenyltoloxamine or some other antihistamines. Tricyclic antidepressants have painkilling effect as well, but they're thought to do so by indirectly activating the endogenous opioid system. Paracetamol is predominantly a centrally acting analgesic (non-narcotic) which mediates its effect by action on descending serotoninergic (5-hydroxy triptaminergic) pathways, to increase 5-HT release (which inhibits release of pain mediators). It also decreases cyclo-oxygenase activity. It has recently been discovered that most or all of the therapeutic efficacy of paracetamol is due to a metabolite, AM404, which enhances the release of serotonin and inhibits the uptake of anandamide.
Other analgesics work peripherally (i.e., not on the brain or spinal cord). Research is starting to show that morphine and related drugs may indeed have peripheral effects as well, such as morphine gel working on burns. Recent investigations discovered opioid receptors on peripheral sensory neurons. A significant fraction (up to 60%) of opioid analgesia can be mediated by such peripheral opioid receptors, particularly in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, traumatic or surgical pain.
Drugs wiki heroine
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Heroin chemical structure
|(5α,6α)-7,8-didehydro- 4,5-epoxy- 17-methylmorphinan- 3,6-diol diacetate|
|Bioavailability||<35% (oral), 44–61% (inhaled)|
|Elimination half-life||3–5 min (IV, inhaled)|
|Excretion||90% renal as glucuronides, rest biliary|
|Pregnancy category||Category X|
|Routes of administration||Inhalation, Transmucosal, Intravenous, Oral, Intranasal, Rectal, Intramuscular|
Heroin (INN: diacetylmorphine, BAN: diamorphine) is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from morphine, a derivative of the opium poppy. It is the 3,6-diacetylester of morphine (hence diacetylmorphine). The white crystalline form is commonly the hydrochloride saltdiacetylmorphine hydrochloride, however heroin freebase may also appear as a white powder.
As with other opioids, heroin is used as both a pain-killer and a recreational drug. Frequent and regular administration can cause tolerance and a moderate physical dependence to develop. A severe psychological dependence often develops in heroin abusers and as such, heroin has a very high potential for addiction See heroine addiction.
Internationally, heroin is controlled under Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is illegal to manufacture, possess, or sell heroin in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iran, India, the Netherlands, the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and Swaziland. However, under the name diamorphine, heroin is a legally prescribed Controlled Drug in the United Kingdom. In the Netherlands, heroin is available for prescription as the generic drug diacetylmorphine to long-term heroin addicts. Popular street names for heroin include black tar, skag, horse, smack,Junk, chieva, gear, Evil, "H", "Boy", "Big Boy", "dog food,'baby powder' 'brownstone'" and others.
The opium poppy was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia as long ago as 3400 BC. The chemical analysis of opium in the 19th century revealed that most of its activity could be ascribed to two alkaloids, codeine and morphine.
Heroin was first synthesized in 1874 by C. R. Alder Wright, an English chemist working at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, England. He had been experimenting with combining morphine with various acids. He boiled anhydrous morphine alkaloid with acetic anhydride over a stove for several hours and produced a more potent, acetylated form of morphine, now called diacetylmorphine. The compound was sent to F. M. Pierce of Owens College in Manchester for analysis, who reported the following to Wright:
- Doses ... were subcutaneously injected into young dogs and rabbits ... with the following general results ... great prostration, fear, and sleepiness speedily following the administration, the eyes being sensitive, and pupils constrict, considerable salivation being produced in dogs, and slight tendency to vomiting in some cases, but no actual emesis. Respiration was at first quickened, but subsequently reduced, and the heart's action was diminished, and rendered irregular. Marked want of coordinating power over the muscular movements, and loss of power in the pelvis and hind limbs, together with a diminution of temperature in the rectum of about 4° (rectal failure).
Wright's invention, however, did not lead to any further developments, and heroin only became popular after it was independently re-synthesized 23 years later by another chemist, Felix Hoffmann. Hoffmann, working at the Bayer pharmaceutical company in Elberfeld, Germany, was instructed by his supervisor Heinrich Dreser to acetylate morphine with the objective of producing codeine, a constituent of the opium poppy, similar to morphine pharmacologically but less potent and less addictive. But instead of producing codeine, the experiment produced an acetylated form of morphine that was 1.5-2 times more potent than morphine itself. Bayer would name the substance "heroin", probably from the word heroisch, German for heroic, because in field studies people using the medicine felt "heroic".
From 1898 through to 1910, heroin was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant. Bayer marketed heroin as a cure for morphine addiction before it was discovered that it is rapidly metabolized into morphine, and as such, "heroin" was essentially a quicker acting form of morphine. The company was embarrassed by this new finding and it became a historical blunder for Bayer.
As with aspirin, Bayer lost some of its trademark rights to heroin under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles following the German defeat in World War I.
In the U.S.A. the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed in 1914 to control the sale and distribution of heroin and other opioids. The law did allow heroin to be prescribed and sold for medical purposes. In 1924, the United States Congress passed additional legislation banning the sale, importation or manufacture of heroin in the United States. It is now a Schedule I substance, and is thus illegal in the United States.
When taken orally, heroin undergoes extensive first-pass metabolism via deacetylation, making it a prodrug for the systemic delivery of morphine. When the drug is injected, however, it avoids this first-pass effect, very rapidly crossing the blood-brain barrier due to the presence of the acetyl groups, which render it much more lipid-soluble than morphine itself. Once in the brain, it then is deacetylated into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) and morphine which bind to μ-opioid receptors, resulting in the drug's euphoric, analgesic (pain relief), and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects; heroin itself exhibits relatively low affinity for the μ receptor. Unlike hydromorphone and oxymorphone, however, administered intravenously, heroin creates a larger histamine release, similar to morphine, resulting in the feeling of a greater subjective "body high" to some, but also instances of pruritus (itching)when they first start using .
Both morphine and 6-MAM are μ-opioidagonists which bind to receptors present throughout the brain, spinal cord and gut of all mammals. The μ-opioid receptor also binds endogenous opioid peptides such as β-endorphin, Leu-enkephalin, and Met-enkephalin. Repeated use of heroin results in a number of physiological changes, including decreases in the number of μ-opioid receptors. [How to reference and link to summary or text] These physiological alterations lead to tolerance and dependence, so that cessation of heroin use results in a set of extremely uncomfortable symptoms including pain, anxiety, muscle spasms, and insomnia called the opioid withdrawal syndrome. Depending on usage it has an onset 4 to 24 hours after the last dose of heroin. Morphine also binds to δ- and κ-opioid receptors.
There is also evidence that 6-MAM binds to a subtype of μ-opioid receptors which are also activated by the morphine metabolite morphine-6β-glucuronide but not morphine itself. The contribution of these receptors to the overall pharmacology of heroin remains unknown.
Usage and effects
Central nervous system:
Cardiovascular & Respiratory:
Eyes, Ears, nose, and mouth:
Heroin is used as a recreational drug for the profound relaxation and intense euphoria it produces, although the latter effect diminishes with increased tolerance. Its popularity with recreational drug users, compared to morphine, reportedly stems from its perceived different effects. In particular, users report an intense "rush" that occurs while the heroin is being metabolized into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) and morphine in the brain. Any intravenous opioid will induce rapid, profound effects, but heroin produces more euphoria than other opioids upon injection. One possible explanation is the presence of 6-monoacetylmorphine, a metabolite unique to heroin. While other opioids of abuse, such as codeine, produce only morphine, heroin also leaves 6-MAM, also a psycho-active metabolite. However, this perception is not supported by the results of clinical studies comparing the physiological and subjective effects of injected heroin and morphine in individuals formerly addicted to opioids; these subjects showed no preference for one drug over the other. Equipotent, injected doses had comparable action courses, with no difference in subjects' self-rated feelings of euphoria, ambition, nervousness, relaxation, drowsiness, or sleepiness. Short-term addiction studies by the same researchers demonstrated that tolerance developed at a similar rate to both heroin and morphine. When compared to the opioids hydromorphone, fentanyl, oxycodone, and pethidine/meperidine, former addicts showed a strong preference for heroin and morphine, suggesting that heroin and morphine are particularly susceptible to abuse and addiction. Morphine and heroin were also much more likely to produce euphoria and other positive subjective effects when compared to these other opioids.
One of the most common methods of illicit heroin use is via intravenous injection (colloquially termed "shooting up"). Recreational users may also administer the drug by snorting, or smoking by inhaling its vapors when heated, i.e. "chasing the dragon."
The onset of heroin's effects depends upon the route of administration. Orally, since heroin is completely metabolized in vivo to morphine before crossing the blood-brain barrier the effects are the same as with oral morphine. Snorting results in an onset within 3 to 5 minutes; smoking results in an almost immediate effect that builds in intensity; intravenous injection induces a rush and euphoria usually taking effect within 30 seconds; intramuscular and subcutaneous injection take effect within 3 to 5 minutes.
The heroin dose used for recreational purposes depends strongly on the frequency of use. A first-time user typically ingests between 5 and 20 mg of heroin, but an individual who is heavily dependent on the drug may require several hundred mg per day.
Large doses of heroin can cause fatal respiratory depression, and the drug has been used for suicide or as a murder weapon. The serial killer Dr Harold Shipman used it on his victims as did Dr John Bodkin Adams (see his victim, Edith Alice Morrell). Because significant tolerance to respiratory depression develops quickly with continued use and is lost just as quickly during withdrawal, it is often difficult to determine whether a heroin death was an accident, suicide or murder. Examples include the overdose deaths of Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin, Tim Buckley, Layne Staley, Bradley Nowell, Jim Morrison, and Ted Binion.
Diamorphine is used as a strong analgesic in the United Kingdom, where it is given via subcutaneous, intramuscular or intravenous route. Its use includes acute pain, such as in severe trauma, myocardial infarction, and following surgery, and chronic pain, including in cancer. In other countries it is more common to use morphine or other strong opioids in these situations.
In 2005, there was a shortage of diamorphine in the UK, due to a problem at the main UK manufacturers. Due to this, many hospitals changed to using morphine instead of diamorphine. Although there is no longer a problem with its manufacture, many hospitals have continued to use morphine.
Diamorphine is continued to be widely used in palliative care in the United Kingdom, where it is commonly given by the subcutaneous route, often via a syringe driver, if patients could not easily swallow oral morphine solution. The advantage of diamorphine over morphine is that diamorphine is more soluble and smaller volumes of diamorphine are needed for the same analgesic effect. Both of these factors are advantageous if giving high doses of opioids via the subcutaneous route, which is often necessary in palliative care.
The medical use of diamorphine (in common with other strong opioids such as morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone) is controlled in the United Kingdom by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It is a schedule 2 controlled drug, and registers of its use are required to be kept in hospitals, and prescriptions for its use must be written with the form and strength of the preparation, and quantity stated in both words and figures.
In the Netherlands, diamorphine (heroin) is a List I drug of the Opium Law. It is available for prescription under tight regulation to long-term heroin addicts for whom methadone maintenance treatment has failed. Heroin is exclusively available for prescription to long-term heroin addicts, and cannot be used to treat severe pain or other illnesses.
In the United States, heroin is a schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, making it illegal to possess without a DEA license. Possession of more than 100 grams of heroin or a mixture containing heroin is punishable with a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years of imprisonment in a federal prison.
In Canada, heroin is a controlled substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Any person who seeks or obtains heroin without disclosing authorization 30 days prior to obtaining another prescription from a practitioner is guilty of an indictable offense and subject to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years. Possession of heroin for the purpose of trafficking is guilty of an indictable offense and subject to imprisonment for life.
In Hong Kong, heroin is regulated under Schedule 1 of Hong Kong's Chapter 134 Dangerous Drugs Ordinance. It is available by prescription. Anyone who supplies heroin without a valid prescription can be fined $10,000 (HKD). The penalty for trafficking or manufacturing heroin is a $5,000,000 (HKD) fine and life imprisonment. Possession of heroin without a license from the Department of Health is illegal with a $1,000,000 (HKD) fine and/or 7 years of jail time.
In the United Kingdom, heroin is available by prescription, though it is a restricted Class A drug. According to the 50th edition of the British National Formulary (BNF), diamorphine hydrochloride may be used in the treatment of acute pain, myocardial infarction, acute pulmonary oedema, and chronic pain. The treatment of chronic non-malignant pain must be supervised by a specialist. The BNF notes that all opioid analgesics cause dependence and tolerance but that this is "no deterrent in the control of pain in terminal illness". When used in the palliative care of cancer patients, heroin is often injected using a syringe driver.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reports that the retail price of brown heroin varies from 14.5€ per gram in Turkey to 110€ per gram in Sweden, with most European countries reporting typical prices of 45-55€ per gram. The price of white heroin is reported only by a few European countries and ranged between 27€ and 110€ per gram.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime claims in its 2008 World Drug Report that typical US retail prices are 172 dollars per gram.
Production and trafficking: The Golden Triangle
Heroin is produced for the black market by refining opium. The first step of this process involves isolation of morphine from opium. This crude morphine is then acetylated by heating with acetic anhydride. Purification of the obtained crude heroin and conversion to the hydrochloride salt results in a water-soluble form of the drug that is a white or yellowish powder.
Crude opium is carefully dissolved in hot water but the resulting hot soup is not boiled. Mechanical impurities - twigs - are scooped together with the foam. The mixture is then made alkaline by gradual addition of lime. Lime causes a number of unwelcome components present in opium to precipitate out of the solution. (The impurities include inactive alkaloids, resins, proteins). The precipitate is removed by filtration through a cloth, washed with additional water and discarded. The filtrates containing the water-soluble calcium salt of morphine (calcium morphinate) are then acidified by careful addition of ammonium chloride. This causes morphine (as a free phenol) to precipitate. The morphine precipitate is collected by filtration and dried before the next step. The crude morphine (which makes only about 10% of the weight of opium) is then heated together with acetic anhydride at 85 °C (185 °F) for six hours. The reaction mixture is then cooled, diluted with water, made alkaline with sodium carbonate, and the precipitated crude heroin is filtered and washed with water. This crude water-insoluble freebase product (which by itself is usable, for smoking) is further purified and decolorised by dissolution in hot alcohol, filtration with activated charcoal and concentration of the filtrates. The concentrated solution is then acidified with hydrochloric acid, diluted with ether, and the precipitated heroin hydrochloride is the purest form of heroin collected by filtration. This precipitate is the so-called "no. 4 heroin", commonly known as "chyna white". Chyna white is heroin in its purest form. Chyna white is Heroin freebase cut with a small amount of caffeine (to help vaporise it more efficiently), typically brown in appearance, is known as "no. 3 heroin". These two forms of heroin are the standard products exported to the Western market. Heroin no. 3 predominates on the European market, where heroin no. 4 is relatively uncommon. Another form of heroin is "black tar" which is common in the western United States and is produced in Mexico.
The initial stage of opium refining—the isolation of morphine—is relatively easy to perform in rudimentary settings - even by substituting suitable fertilizers for pure chemical reagents. However, the later steps (acetylation, purification, and conversion to the hydrochloride salt) are more involved—they use large quantities of chemicals and solvents and they require both skill and patience. The final step is particularly tricky as the highly flammable ether can easily ignite during positive-pressure filtration (the explosion of vapor-air mixture can obliterate the refinery). If the ether does ignite, the result is a catastrophic explosion.
History of heroin traffic
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The origins of the present international illegal heroin trade can be traced back to laws passed in many countries in the early 1900s that closely regulated the production and sale of opium and its derivatives including heroin. At first, heroin flowed from countries where it was still legal into countries where it was no longer legal. By the mid-1920s, heroin production had been made illegal in many parts of the world. An illegal trade developed at that time between heroin labs in China (mostly in Shanghai and Tianjin) and other nations. The weakness of government in China and conditions of civil war enabled heroin production to take root there. Chinese triad gangs eventually came to play a major role in the heroin trade. French Connection route started in the 1930s.
Heroin trafficking was virtually eliminated in the U.S. during World War II due to temporary trade disruptions caused by the war.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Japan's war with China had cut the normal distribution routes for heroin and the war had generally disrupted the movement of opium. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
After World War II, the Mafia took advantage of the weakness of the postwar Italian government and set up heroin labs in Sicily.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The Mafia took advantage of Sicily's location along the historic route opium took westward into Europe and the United States. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
Large scale international heroin production effectively ended in China with the victory of the communists in the civil war in the late 1940s.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The elimination of Chinese production happened at the same time that Sicily's role in the trade developed.
Although it remained legal in some countries until after World War II, health risks, addiction, and widespread abuse led most western countries to declare heroin a controlled substance by the latter half of the 20th century.
In late 1960s and early 70s, the CIA supported anti-Communist Chinese Nationalists settled near Sino-Burmese border and Hmong tribesmen in Laos. This helped the development of the Golden Triangle opium production region, which supplied about one-third of heroin consumed in US after 1973 American withdrawal from Vietnam. As of 1999, Myanmar (former Burma), the heartland of the Golden Triangle remained the second largest producer of heroin, after Afghanistan.
Soviet-Afghan war led to increased production in the Pakistani-Afghani border regions, as U.S.-backed mujaheddin militants raised money for arms from selling opium, contributing heavily to the modern Golden Crescent creation. By 1980, 60% of heroin sold in the U.S. originated in Afghanistan. It increased international production of heroin at lower prices in the 1980s. The trade shifted away from Sicily in the late 1970s as various criminal organizations violently fought with each other over the trade. The fighting also led to a stepped up government law enforcement presence in Sicily.
- See also: Opium production
Traffic is heavy worldwide, with the biggest producer being Afghanistan. According to U.N. sponsored survey, as of 2004[update]Template:Dated maintenance category, Afghanistan accounted for production of 87 percent of the world's heroin.
The cultivation of opium in Afghanistan reached its peak in 1999, when 225,000 acres - 350 square miles - of poppies were sown. The following year the Taliban banned poppy cultivation, a move which cut production by 94 percent. By 2001 only 30 square miles of land were in use for growing opium poppies. A year later, after American and British troops had removed the Taliban and installed the interim government, the land under cultivation leapt back to 285 square miles, with Afghanistan supplanting Burma to become the world's largest opium producer once more.  Opium production in that country has increased rapidly since, reaching an all-time high in 2006. War once again appeared as a facilitator of the trade.
At present, opium poppies are mostly grown in Afghanistan, and in Southeast Asia, especially in the region known as the Golden Triangle straddling Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Yunnan province in the People's Republic of China. There is also cultivation of opium poppies in the Sinaloa region of Mexico and in Colombia. The majority of the heroin consumed in the United States comes from Mexico and Colombia. Up until 2004, Pakistan was considered one of the biggest opium-growing countries.
Conviction for trafficking in heroin carries the death penalty in most South-east Asian, some East Asian and Middle Eastern countries (see Use of death penalty worldwide for details), among which Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are the most strict. The penalty applies even to citizens of countries where the penalty is not in place, sometimes causing controversy when foreign visitors are arrested for trafficking, for example the arrest of nine Australians in Bali, the death sentence given to Nola Blake in Thailand in 1987, or the hanging of an Australian citizen Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore, both in 2005.
Risks of use
- For intravenous users of heroin (and any other substance), the use of non-sterile needles and syringes and other related equipment leads to several serious risks:
- the risk of contracting blood-borne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis
- the risk of contracting bacterial or fungal endocarditis and possibly venous sclerosis
- Poisoning from contaminants added to "cut" or dilute heroin
- Chronic constipation
- Addiction and increasing tolerance
- Physical dependence can result from prolonged use of all opioids, resulting in withdrawal symptoms on cessation of use
- Decreased kidney function (although it is not currently known if this is due to adulterants or infectious diseases)
Many countries and local governments have begun funding programs that supply sterile needles to people who inject illegal drugs in an attempt to reduce these contingent risks and especially the contraction and spread of blood-borne diseases. The Drug Policy Alliance reports that up to 75% of new AIDS cases among women and children are directly or indirectly a consequence of drug use by injection. But despite the immediate public health benefit of needle exchanges, some see[attribution needed] such programs as tacit acceptance of illicit drug use. The United States federal government does not operate needle exchanges, although some state and local governments do support needle exchange programs.
A heroin overdose is usually treated with an opioid antagonist, such as naloxone (Narcan), or naltrexone, which has high affinity for opioid receptors but does not activate them. This reverses the effects of heroin and other opioid agonists and causes an immediate return of consciousness but may precipitate withdrawal symptoms. The half-life of naloxone is much shorter than that of most opioid agonists, so that antagonist typically has to be administered multiple times until the opioid has been metabolized by the body.
Depending on drug interactions and numerous other factors, death from overdose can take anywhere from several minutes to several hours due to anoxia because the breathing reflex is suppressed by µ-opioids. An overdose is immediately reversible with an opioid antagonist injection. Heroin overdoses can occur due to an unexpected increase in the dose or purity or due to diminished opioid tolerance. However, many fatalities reported as overdoses are probably caused by interactions with other depressant drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines. It should also be noted that since heroin can cause nausea and vomiting, a significant number of deaths attributed to heroin overdose are caused by aspiration of vomit by an unconscious victim. Some sources give a figure of between 75 and 375 mg for a 75 kg being fatal for 50% of opiate naive people. Street heroin is of widely varying and unpredictable purity. This means that the user may prepare what they consider to be a moderate dose while actually taking far more than intended. Also, tolerance typically decreases after a period of abstinence. If this occurs and the user takes a dose comparable to their previous use, the user may experience drug effects that are much greater than expected, potentially resulting in a dangerous overdose.
It has been speculated that an unknown portion of heroin related deaths are the result of an overdose or allergic reaction to quinine, which may sometimes be used as a cutting agent.
A final factor contributing to overdoses is place conditioning. Heroin use is a highly ritualized behavior. While the mechanism has yet to be clearly elucidated, longtime heroin users display increased tolerance to the drug in locations where they have repeatedly administered heroin. When the user injects in a different location, this environment-conditioned tolerance does not occur, resulting in a greater drug effect. The user's typical dose of the drug, in the face of decreased tolerance, becomes far too high and can be toxic, leading to overdose.
A small percentage of heroin smokers and occasionally IV users may develop symptoms of toxic leukoencephalopathy. The cause has yet to be identified, but one speculation is that the disorder is caused by an uncommon adulterant that is only active when heated. Symptoms include slurred speech and difficulty walking.
Cocaine sometimes proves to be fatal when used in combination with heroin. Though "speedballs" (when injected) or "moonrocks" (when smoked) are a popular mix of the two drugs among users, combinations of stimulants and depressants can have unpredictable and sometimes fatal results. In the United States in early 2006, a rash of deaths was attributed to either a combination of fentanyl and heroin, or pure fentanyl masquerading as heroin particularly in the Detroit Metro Area; one news report refers to the combination as 'laced heroin', though this is likely a generic rather than a specific term.
Harm reduction approaches to heroin
Proponents of the harm reduction philosophy seek to minimize the harms that arise from the recreational use of heroin. Safer means of taking the drug, such as smoking or nasal, oral and rectal insertion, are encouraged, due to injection having higher risks of overdose, infections and blood-borne viruses. Where the strength of the drug is unknown, users are encouraged to try a small amount first to gauge the strength, to minimize the risks of overdose. For the same reason, poly drug use (the use of two or more drugs at the same time) is discouraged. Users are also encouraged to not use heroin on their own, as others can assist in the event of an overdose. Heroin users who choose to inject should always use new needles, syringes, spoons/steri-cups and filters every time they inject and not share these with other users. Governments that support a harm reduction approach often run Needle & Syringe exchange programs, which supply new needles and syringes on a confidential basis, as well as education on proper filtering prior to injection, safer injection techniques, safe disposal of used injecting gear and other equipment used when preparing heroin for injection may also be supplied including citric acid sachets/vitamin C sachets, steri-cups, filters, alcohol pre-injection swabs, sterile water ampules and tourniquets (to stop use of shoe laces or belts).
The withdrawal syndrome from heroin may begin within 6 to 24 hours of discontinuation of the drug; however, this time frame can fluctuate with the degree of tolerance as well as the amount of the last consumed dose. Symptoms may include: sweating, malaise, anxiety, depression, priapism, extra sensitivity of the genitals in females, general feeling of heaviness, cramp-like pains in the limbs, excessive yawning or sneezing, tears, rhinorrhea, sleep difficulties (insomnia), cold sweats, chills, severe muscle and bone aches; nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and fever. Many users also complain of a painful condition, the so-called "itchy blood", which often results in compulsive scratching that causes bruises and sometimes ruptures the skin, leaving scabs. Abrupt termination of heroin use often causes muscle spasms in the legs (restless leg syndrome, (also known as "kicking the habit")). The intensity of the withdrawal syndrome is variable depending on the dosage of the drug used and the frequency of use. Very severe withdrawal can be precipitated by administering an opioid antagonist to a heroin addict.
Three general approaches are available to ease the physical part of opioid withdrawal. The first is to substitute a longer-acting opioid such as methadone or buprenorphine for heroin or occasionally another short-acting opioid and then slowly taper the dose.
In the second approach, benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) may be recommended for opiate withdrawal especially if there is comorbid alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines may temporarily ease the anxiety, muscle spasms, and insomnia associated with opioid withdrawal. The use of benzodiazepines must be carefully monitored because these drugs have a high risk of physical dependence as well as abuse potential and have little or no cross tolerance with opiates and thus are not generally recommended as a first line treatment strategy. Also, although very unpleasant, opioid withdrawal is seldom fatal, whereas complications related to withdrawal from benzodiazepines, barbiturates and alcohol withdrawal (such as psychosis, suicidal depression, epileptic seizures, cardiac arrest, and delirium tremens) can prove hazardous and are potentially life-threatening.
Many symptoms of opioid withdrawal are due to rebound hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system, which can be suppressed with clonidine (Catapres), a centrally-acting alpha-2 agonist primarily used to treat hypertension. Another drug sometimes used to relieve the "restless legs" symptom of withdrawal is baclofen, a muscle relaxant. Diarrhoea can likewise be treated with the peripherally active opioid drug loperamide.
Methadone is another μ-opioid agonist most often used to substitute for heroin in treatment for heroin addiction. Compared to heroin, methadone is well (but slowly) absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and has a much longer duration of action of approximately 24 hours. Thus methadone maintenance avoids the rapid cycling between intoxication and withdrawal associated with heroin addiction. In this way, methadone has shown success as a substitute for heroin; despite bearing about the same addiction potential as heroin, it is recommended for those who have repeatedly failed to complete withdrawal or have recently relapsed. Patients properly stabilized on methadone display few subjective effects to the drug (i.e., it does not make them "high"), and are unable to obtain a "high" from other opioids except with very high doses. Methadone, since it is longer-acting, produces withdrawal symptoms that appear later than with heroin, but usually last considerably longer and can in some cases be more intense. Methadone withdrawal symptoms can potentially persist for over a month, compared to heroin where significant physical symptoms subside within 4 - 7 days.
Buprenorphine is another opioid that was recently licensed for opioid substitution treatment. As a μ-opioid receptorpartial agonist, patients develop less tolerance to it than to heroin or methadone due to its partial activation of the opiate receptor. Patients are unable to obtain a "high" from other opioids during buprenorphine treatment except with very high doses. It also has less severe withdrawal symptoms than heroin or other full agonist opiates when discontinued abruptly, although the duration of the withdrawal syndrome is often longer than that seen with heroin. It is usually administered sublingually (dissolved under the tongue) every 24-48 hrs. Buprenorphine is also a κ opioid receptor antagonist, which led to speculation that the drug might have additional antidepressant effects; however, no significant difference was found in symptoms of depression between patients receiving buprenorphine and those receiving methadone.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have been testing a sustained-release "depot" form of buprenorphine that can relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms for up to six weeks. A sustained-release formulation would allow for easier administration and adherence to treatment, and reduce the risk of diversion or misuse.
Three opioid antagonists are available: naloxone and the longer-acting naltrexone and nalmefene. These medications block the ability of heroin, as well as the other opioids to bind to the receptor site.
There is also a controversial treatment for heroin addiction based on an Iboga-derived African drug, ibogaine. Many people travel abroad for ibogaine treatments that generally interrupt substance use disorders for 3-6 months or more in up to 80% of patients.
The UK Department of Health's Rolleston Committee report in 1926 established the British approach to heroin prescription to users, which was maintained for the next forty years: dealers were prosecuted, but doctors could prescribe heroin to users when withdrawing from it would cause harm or severe distress to the patient. This "policing and prescribing" policy effectively controlled the perceived heroin problem in the UK until 1959 when the number of heroin addicts doubled every sixteenth month during a period of ten years, 1959-1968. The failure changed the attitudes; in 1964 only specialized clinics and selected approved doctors were allowed to prescribe heroin to users. The law was made more restrictive in 1968. Beginning in the 1970s, the emphasis shifted to abstinence and the use of methadone, until now only a small number of users in the UK are prescribed heroin.
In 1994 Switzerland began a trial heroin maintenance program for users that had failed multiple withdrawal programs. The aim of this program is to maintain the health of the user in order to avoid medical problems stemming from the use of illicit street heroin. Reducing drug-related crime and preventing overdoses were two other goals. The first trial in 1994 involved 340 users, although enrollment was later expanded to 1000 based on the apparent success of the program. Participants are allowed to inject heroin in specially designed pharmacies for 15 Swiss Francs per dose. A national referendum in November 2008 showed 68% of voters supported the plan, introducing heroin prescription into federal law. The trials before were based on time-limited executive ordinances.
The success of the Swiss trials led German, Dutch, and Canadian cities to try out their own heroin prescription programs. Some Australian cities (such as Sydney) have instituted legal heroin supervised injecting centers, in line with other wider harm minimization programs.
Starting in January 2009 Denmark is also going to prescribe heroin to a few addicts that have tried methadone and subutex without success.
It has been claimed that sustained use of heroin for as little as three days can cause withdrawal symptoms to appear if use is stopped, & the myth that "just one shot will hook you for life" has been one of the many sensationalist claims made about the drug, & a belief in its overwhelming ability to addict anyone who tries it one of the main justifications for heroin's continuing prohibition. The truth is that true physical dependence on heroin demonstrated by genuine physical withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of consumption, [as opposed to a mental or psychological craving to repeat the heroin experience], is not acquired any faster than with continuous use of any other opiate, normally between three to six weeks in an opiate naive person. Many times patients in UK hospitals are treated with diamorphine daily for many weeks following painful surgery without experiencing any withdrawal upon discontinuation of the drug.
- ↑ (2004). Yellow List: List of Narcotic Drugs Under International Control. (PDF) International Narcotics Control Board. URL accessed on May 5 2006.Referring URL = http://www.incb.org/incb/yellow_list.html
- ↑ Opium Throughout History. PBS Frontline. URL accessed on 2006-10-22.
- ↑Wright, C.R.A. On the Action of Organic Acids and their Anhydrides on the Natural Alkaloids. Note: this is an annotated excerpt of Wright, C.R.A. (1874). On the Action of Organic Acids and their Anhydrides on the Natural Alkaloids. Journal of the Chemical Society 27: 1031–1043.
- ↑owden, Mary Ellen. Pharmaceutical Achievers. Philadelphia: Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2002.
- ↑ (1998). How aspirin turned hero. Sunday Times. URL accessed on 2006-10-22.
- ↑ Treaty of Versailles, Part X, Section IV, Article 298. URL accessed on 2008-10-25.
- ↑Sawynok J. "The therapeutic use of heroin: a review of the pharmacological literature." Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 1986 Jan;64(1):1-6. PMID 2420426
- ↑Klous MG, Van den Brink W, Van Ree JM, Beijnen JH. "Development of pharmaceutical heroin preparations for medical co-prescription to opioid-dependent patients." Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2005 December 12;80(3):283-95. PMID 15916865. DOI:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2005.04.008
- ↑Inturrisi CE, Schultz M, Shin S, Umans JG, Angel L, Simon EJ. "Evidence from opiate binding studies that heroin acts through its metabolites." Life Sciences. 1983;33 Suppl 1:773-6. PMID 6319928
- ↑Histamine release by morphine and diamorphine in man. & Cutaneous Complications of Intravenous Drug Abuse
- ↑Brown GP, Yang K, King MA, Rossi GC, Leventhal L, Chang A, Pasternak GW. "3-Methoxynaltrexone, a selective heroin/morphine-6beta-glucuronide antagonist." FEBS Letters. 1997 Jul 21;412(1):35-8. PMID 9257684
- ↑Nutt D, King LA, Saulsbury W, Blakemore C (2007). Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse. Lancet 369 (9566): 1047–53.
- ↑ 13.013.1Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP): Heroin Facts & Figures Retrieved on 11 February, 2009
- ↑Tschacher W, Haemmig R, Jacobshagen N. (2003). Time series modeling of heroin and morphine drug action. Psychopharmacology.
- ↑ 15.015.1Martin WR, Fraser HF. "A comparative study of physiological and subjective effects of heroin and morphine administered intravenously in postaddicts." Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 1961 Sep;133:388-99. PMID 13767429
- ↑Notes on heroin dosage & tolerance. Erowid's Vault, 2001.
- ↑First murder charge over heroin mix that killed 400 - World - Times Online
- ↑European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2008). Annual report: the state of the drugs problem in Europe, 70, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
- ↑United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2008). World drug report, 49, United Nations Publications.
- ↑ 21.021.1 War Views: Afghan heroin trade will live on.. Richard Davenport-Hines. BBC. URL accessed on 2008-10-30.
- ↑Nazemroaya, Mahdi Darius (2006). The War in Afghanistan: Drugs, Money Laundering and the Banking System. GlobalResearch.ca. URL accessed on 2006-10-22.
- ↑ Afghanistan opium survey - 2004. (PDF) URL accessed on 2006-10-22.
- ↑McGirk, Tim (2004). Terrorism's Harvest: How al-Qaeda is tapping into the opium trade to finance its operations and destabilize Afghanistan. Time Magazine Asia. URL accessed on 2006-10-22.
- ↑OPIUM WARS WITHIN, Jackie Jura ~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~ http://www.orwelltoday.com/afghanheroin.shtml
- ↑Gall, Carolotta (2006). Opium Harvest at Record Level in Afghanistan. New York Times - Asia Pacific. URL accessed on 2006-10-22.
- ↑Dettmeyer RB, Preuss J, Wollersen H, Madea B. ";Heroin-associated nephropathy." Expert Opinion on Drug Safety 2005 Jan;4(1):19-28. PMID 15709895. DOI:10.1517/14740322.214.171.124
- ↑Shane Darke, Deborah Zador (1996). Fatal Heroin 'Overdose': a Review. Addiction 91 (12): 1765–1772.
- ↑Toxic Substances in water
- ↑The "heroin overdose" mystery and other occupational hazards of addiction, Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
- ↑József Gerevich, Erika Bácskai, Lajos Farkas, and Zoltán Danics (2005). A case report: Pavlovian conditioning as a risk factor of heroin 'overdose' death. Harm Reduct J. 2 (11): 11.
- ↑Hill MD, Cooper PW, Perry JR. "Chasing the dragon--neurological toxicity associated with inhalation of heroin vapour: case report."Canadian Medical Association Journal
Opioid used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects
For other uses, see Heroin (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Heroine.
|Other names||Diacetylmorphine, acetomorphine, (dual) acetylated morphine, morphine diacetate, Diamorphine (BANUK)|
|Intravenous, inhalation, transmucosal, by mouth, intranasal, rectal, intramuscular, subcutaneous, intrathecal|
|Bioavailability||<35% (by mouth), 44–61% (inhaled)|
|Protein binding||0% (morphine metabolite 35%)|
|Onset of action||Within minutes|
|Elimination half-life||2–3 minutes|
|Duration of action||4 to 5 hours|
|Excretion||90% kidney as glucuronides, rest biliary|
|Molar mass||369.417 g·mol−1|
|3D model (JSmol)|
Heroin, also known as diacetylmorphine and diamorphine among other names, is an opioid used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects. Medical grade diamorphine is used as a pure hydrochloride salt which is distinguished from black tar heroin, a variable admixture of morphine derivatives—predominantly 6-MAM (6-monoacetylmorphine), which is the result of crude acetylation during clandestine production of street heroin. Diamorphine is used medically in several countries to relieve pain, such as during childbirth or a heart attack, as well as in opioid replacement therapy.
It is typically injected, usually into a vein, but it can also be smoked, snorted, or inhaled. In a clinical context the route of administration is most commonly intravenous injection; it may also be given by intramuscular or subcutaneous injection, as well as orally in the form of tablets. The onset of effects is usually rapid and lasts for a few hours.
Common side effects include respiratory depression (decreased breathing), dry mouth, drowsiness, impaired mental function, constipation, and addiction. Side effects of use by injection can include abscesses, infected heart valves, blood-borne infections, and pneumonia. After a history of long-term use, opioid withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of the last use. When given by injection into a vein, heroin has two to three times the effect of a similar dose of morphine. It typically appears in the form of a white or brown powder.
Treatment of heroin addiction often includes behavioral therapy and medications. Medications can include buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone. A heroin overdose may be treated with naloxone. An estimated 17 million people as of 2015[update] use opiates, of which heroin is the most common, and opioid use resulted in 122,000 deaths. The total number of heroin users worldwide as of 2015 is believed to have increased in Africa, the Americas, and Asia since 2000. In the United States, approximately 1.6 percent of people have used heroin at some point, with 950,000 using it in the last year. When people die from overdosing on a drug, the drug is usually an opioid and often heroin.
Heroin was first made by C. R. Alder Wright in 1874 from morphine, a natural product of the opium poppy. Internationally, heroin is controlled under Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and it is generally illegal to make, possess, or sell without a license. About 448 tons of heroin were made in 2016. In 2015, Afghanistan produced about 66% of the world's opium. Illegal heroin is often mixed with other substances such as sugar, starch, caffeine, quinine, or other opioids like fentanyl.
Bayer's original trade name (see 'History' section) of heroin is typically used in non-medical settings. It is used as a recreational drug for the euphoria it induces. Anthropologist Michael Agar once described heroin as "the perfect whatever drug."Tolerance develops quickly, and increased doses are needed in order to achieve the same effects. Its popularity with recreational drug users, compared to morphine, reportedly stems from its perceived different effects.
Short-term addiction studies by the same researchers demonstrated that tolerance developed at a similar rate to both heroin and morphine. When compared to the opioids hydromorphone, fentanyl, oxycodone, and pethidine (meperidine), former addicts showed a strong preference for heroin and morphine, suggesting that heroin and morphine are particularly susceptible to misuse and causing dependence. Morphine and heroin were also much more likely to produce euphoria and other "positive" subjective effects when compared to these other opioids.
In the United States, heroin is not accepted as medically useful.
Under the generic name diamorphine, heroin is prescribed as a strong pain medication in the United Kingdom, where it is administered via oral, subcutaneous, intramuscular, intrathecal, intranasal or intravenous routes. It may be prescribed for the treatment of acute pain, such as in severe physical trauma, myocardial infarction, post-surgical pain and chronic pain, including end-stage terminal illnesses. In other countries it is more common to use morphine or other strong opioids in these situations. In 2004, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence produced guidance on the management of caesarean section, which recommended the use of intrathecal or epidural diamorphine for post-operative pain relief. For women who have had intrathecal opioids, there should be a minimum hourly observation of respiratory rate, sedation and pain scores for at least 12 hours for diamorphine and 24 hours for morphine. Women should be offered diamorphine (0.3–0.4 mg intrathecally) for intra- and postoperative analgesia because it reduces the need for supplemental analgesia after a caesarean section. Epidural diamorphine (2.5–5 mg) is a suitable alternative.
Diamorphine continues to be widely used in palliative care in the UK, where it is commonly given by the subcutaneous route, often via a syringe driver if patients cannot easily swallow morphine solution. The advantage of diamorphine over morphine is that diamorphine is more fat soluble and therefore more potent by injection, so smaller doses of it are needed for the same effect on pain. Both of these factors are advantageous if giving high doses of opioids via the subcutaneous route, which is often necessary for palliative care.
It is also used in the palliative management of bone fractures and other trauma, especially in children. In the trauma context, it is primarily given by nose in hospital; although a prepared nasal spray is available. It has traditionally been made by the attending physician, generally from the same "dry" ampoules as used for injection. In children, Ayendi nasal spray is available at 720 micrograms and 1600 micrograms per 50 microlitres actuation of the spray, which may be preferable as a non-invasive alternative in pediatric care, avoiding the fear of injection in children.
Main article: Heroin-assisted treatment
A number of European countries prescribe heroin for treatment of heroin addiction. The initial Swiss HAT (Heroin-assisted treatment) trial ("PROVE" study) was conducted as a prospective cohort study with some 1,000 participants in 18 treatment centers between 1994 and 1996, at the end of 2004, 1,200 patients were enrolled in HAT in 23 treatment centers across Switzerland. Diamorphine may be used as a maintenance drug to assist the treatment of opiate addiction, normally in long-term chronic intravenous (IV) heroin users. It is only prescribed following exhaustive efforts at treatment via other means. It is sometimes thought that heroin users can walk into a clinic and walk out with a prescription, but the process takes many weeks before a prescription for diamorphine is issued. Though this is somewhat controversial among proponents of a zero-tolerancedrug policy, it has proven superior to methadone in improving the social and health situations of addicts.
The UK Department of Health's Rolleston Committee Report in 1926 established the British approach to diamorphine prescription to users, which was maintained for the next 40 years: dealers were prosecuted, but doctors could prescribe diamorphine to users when withdrawing. In 1964, the Brain Committee recommended that only selected approved doctors working at approved specialized centres be allowed to prescribe diamorphine and cocaine to users. The law was made more restrictive in 1968. Beginning in the 1970s, the emphasis shifted to abstinence and the use of methadone; currently, only a small number of users in the UK are prescribed diamorphine.
In 1994, Switzerland began a trial diamorphine maintenance program for users that had failed multiple withdrawal programs. The aim of this program was to maintain the health of the user by avoiding medical problems stemming from the illicit use of diamorphine. The first trial in 1994 involved 340 users, although enrollment was later expanded to 1000, based on the apparent success of the program. The trials proved diamorphine maintenance to be superior to other forms of treatment in improving the social and health situation for this group of patients. It has also been shown to save money, despite high treatment expenses, as it significantly reduces costs incurred by trials, incarceration, health interventions and delinquency. Patients appear twice daily at a treatment center, where they inject their dose of diamorphine under the supervision of medical staff. They are required to contribute about 450 Swiss francs per month to the treatment costs. A national referendum in November 2008 showed 68% of voters supported the plan, introducing diamorphine prescription into federal law. The previous trials were based on time-limited executive ordinances. The success of the Swiss trials led German, Dutch, and Canadian cities to try out their own diamorphine prescription programs. Some Australian cities (such as Sydney) have instituted legal diamorphine supervised injecting centers, in line with other wider harm minimization programs.
Since January 2009, Denmark has prescribed diamorphine to a few addicts who have tried methadone and buprenorphine without success. Beginning in February 2010, addicts in Copenhagen and Odense became eligible to receive free diamorphine. Later in 2010, other cities including Århus and Esbjerg joined the scheme. It was estimated that around 230 addicts would be able to receive free diamorphine.
However, Danish addicts would only be able to inject heroin according to the policy set by Danish National Board of Health. Of the estimated 1500 drug users who did not benefit from the then-current oral substitution treatment, approximately 900 would not be in the target group for treatment with injectable diamorphine, either because of "massive multiple drug abuse of non-opioids" or "not wanting treatment with injectable diamorphine".[needs update]
In July 2009, the German Bundestag passed a law allowing diamorphine prescription as a standard treatment for addicts; a large-scale trial of diamorphine prescription had been authorized in the country in 2002.
On 26 August 2016, Health Canada issued regulations amending prior regulations it had issued under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act; the "New Classes of Practitioners Regulations", the "Narcotic Control Regulations", and the "Food and Drug Regulations", to allow doctors to prescribe diamorphine to people who have a severe opioid addiction who have not responded to other treatments. The prescription heroin can be accessed by doctors through Health Canada's Special Access Programme (SAP) for "emergency access to drugs for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional treatments have failed, are unsuitable, or are unavailable."
Routes of administration
The onset of heroin's effects depends upon the route of administration. Smoking is the fastest route of drug administration, although intravenous injection results in a quicker rise in blood concentration. These are followed by suppository (anal or vaginal insertion), insufflation (snorting), and ingestion (swallowing).
A 2002 study suggests that a fast onset of action increases the reinforcing effects of addictive drugs. Ingestion does not produce a rush as a forerunner to the high experienced with the use of heroin, which is most pronounced with intravenous use. While the onset of the rush induced by injection can occur in as little as a few seconds, the oral route of administration requires approximately half an hour before the high sets in. Thus, with both higher the dosage of heroin used and faster the route of administration used, the higher the potential risk for psychological dependence/addiction.
Large doses of heroin can cause fatal respiratory depression, and the drug has been used for suicide or as a murder weapon. The serial killer Harold Shipman used diamorphine on his victims, and the subsequent Shipman Inquiry led to a tightening of the regulations surrounding the storage, prescribing and destruction of controlled drugs in the UK.
Because significant tolerance to respiratory depression develops quickly with continued use and is lost just as quickly during withdrawal, it is often difficult to determine whether a heroin lethal overdose was accidental, suicide or homicide. Examples include the overdose deaths of Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin, Tim Buckley, Hillel Slovak, Layne Staley, Bradley Nowell, Ted Binion, and River Phoenix.
Use of heroin by mouth is less common than other methods of administration, mainly because there is little to no "rush", and the effects are less potent. Heroin is entirely converted to morphine by means of first-pass metabolism, resulting in deacetylation when ingested. Heroin's oral bioavailability is both dose-dependent (as is morphine's) and significantly higher than oral use of morphine itself, reaching up to 64.2% for high doses and 45.6% for low doses; opiate-naive users showed far less absorption of the drug at low doses, having bioavailabilities of only up to 22.9%. The maximum plasma concentration of morphine following oral administration of heroin was around twice as much as that of oral morphine.
Injection, also known as "slamming", "banging", "shooting up", "digging" or "mainlining", is a popular method which carries relatively greater risks than other methods of administration. Heroin base (commonly found in Europe), when prepared for injection, will only dissolve in water when mixed with an acid (most commonly citric acid powder or lemon juice) and heated. Heroin in the east-coast United States is most commonly found in the hydrochloride salt form, requiring just water (and no heat) to dissolve. Users tend to initially inject in the easily accessible arm veins, but as these veins collapse over time, users resort to more dangerous areas of the body, such as the femoral vein in the groin. Users who have used this route of administration often develop a deep vein thrombosis.[medical citation needed]
Intravenous users can use a various single dose range using a hypodermic needle. The dose of heroin used for recreational purposes is dependent on the frequency and level of use: thus a first-time user may use between 5 and 20 mg, while an established addict may require several hundred mg per day.
As with the injection of any drug, if a group of users share a common needle without sterilization procedures, blood-borne diseases, such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, can be transmitted. The use of a common dispenser for water for the use in the preparation of the injection, as well as the sharing of spoons and filters can also cause the spread of blood-borne diseases. Many countries now supply small sterile spoons and filters for single use in order to prevent the spread of disease.
Smoking heroin refers to vaporizing it to inhale the resulting fumes, rather than burning and inhaling the smoke. It is commonly smoked in glass pipes made from glassblownPyrex tubes and light bulbs. Heroin may be smoked from aluminium foil, that is heated by a flame underneath it, with the resulting smoke inhaled through a tube of rolled up foil, a method also known as "chasing the dragon".
Another popular route to intake heroin is insufflation (snorting), where a user crushes the heroin into a fine powder and then gently inhales it (sometimes with a straw or a rolled-up banknote, as with cocaine) into the nose, where heroin is absorbed through the soft tissue in the mucous membrane of the sinus cavity and straight into the bloodstream. This method of administration redirects first-pass metabolism, with a quicker onset and higher bioavailability than oral administration, though the duration of action is shortened. This method is sometimes preferred by users who do not want to prepare and administer heroin for injection or smoking but still experience a fast onset. Snorting heroin becomes an often unwanted route, once a user begins to inject the drug. The user may still get high on the drug from snorting, and experience a nod, but will not get a rush. A "rush" is caused by a large amount of heroin entering the body at once. When the drug is taken in through the nose, the user does not get the rush because the drug is absorbed slowly rather than instantly.
Heroin for pain has been mixed with sterile water on site by the attending physician, and administered using a syringe with a nebulizer tip. Heroin may be used for fractures, burns, finger-tip injuries, suturing, and wound re-dressing, but is inappropriate in head injuries.
Little research has been focused on the suppository (anal insertion) or pessary (vaginal insertion) methods of administration, also known as "plugging". These methods of administration are commonly carried out using an oral syringe. Heroin can be dissolved and withdrawn into an oral syringe which may then be lubricated and inserted into the anus or vagina before the plunger is pushed. The rectum or the vaginal canal is where the majority of the drug would likely be taken up, through the membranes lining their walls.
Heroin is classified as a hard drug in terms of drug harmfulness. Like most opioids, unadulterated heroin may lead to adverse effects. The purity of street heroin varies greatly, leading to overdoses when the purity is higher than they expected.
Short term effects
Users report an intense rush, an acute transcendent state of euphoria, which occurs while diamorphine is being metabolized into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) and morphine in the brain. Some believe that heroin produces more euphoria than other opioids; one possible explanation is the presence of 6-monoacetylmorphine, a metabolite unique to heroin – although a more likely explanation is the rapidity of onset. While other opioids of recreational use produce only morphine, heroin also leaves 6-MAM, also a psycho-active metabolite.
However, this perception is not supported by the results of clinical studies comparing the physiological and subjective effects of injected heroin and morphine in individuals formerly addicted to opioids; these subjects showed no preference for one drug over the other. Equipotent injected doses had comparable action courses, with no difference in subjects' self-rated feelings of euphoria, ambition, nervousness, relaxation, drowsiness, or sleepiness.
The rush is usually accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities. Nausea, vomiting, and severe itching may also occur. After the initial effects, users usually will be drowsy for several hours; mental function is clouded; heart function slows, and breathing is also severely slowed, sometimes enough to be life-threatening. Slowed breathing can also lead to coma and permanent brain damage. Heroin use has also been associated with myocardial infarction.
Long term effects
Repeated heroin use changes the physical structure and physiology of the brain, creating long-term imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems that are not easily reversed. Studies have shown some deterioration of the brain's white matter due to heroin use, which may affect decision-making abilities, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stressful situations. Heroin also produces profound degrees of tolerance and physical dependence. Tolerance occurs when more and more of the drug is required to achieve the same effects. With physical dependence, the body adapts to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly.
Intravenous use of heroin (and any other substance) with needles and syringes or other related equipment may lead to:
Main article: Opioid withdrawal
The withdrawal syndrome from heroin may begin within as little as two hours of discontinuation of the drug; however, this time frame can fluctuate with the degree of tolerance as well as the amount of the last consumed dose, and more typically begins within 6–24 hours after cessation. Symptoms may include sweating, malaise, anxiety, depression, akathisia, priapism, extra sensitivity of the genitals in females, general feeling of heaviness, excessive yawning or sneezing, rhinorrhea, insomnia, cold sweats, chills, severe muscle and bone aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, watery eyes, fever, cramp-like pains, and involuntary spasms in the limbs (thought to be an origin of the term "kicking the habit").
Further information: US drug overdose death rates and totals over time
Heroin overdose is usually treated with the opioid antagonist, naloxone. This reverses the effects of heroin and causes an immediate return of consciousness but may result in withdrawal symptoms. The half-life of naloxone is shorter than some opioids, such that it may need to be given multiple times until the opioid has been metabolized by the body.
Between 2012 and 2015, heroin was the leading cause of drug related deaths in the United States. Since then fentanyl has been a more common cause of drug related deaths.
Depending on drug interactions and numerous other factors, death from overdose can take anywhere from several minutes to several hours. Death usually occurs due to lack of oxygen resulting from the lack of breathing caused by the opioid. Heroin overdoses can occur because of an unexpected increase in the dose or purity or because of diminished opioid tolerance. However, many fatalities reported as overdoses are probably caused by interactions with other depressant drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. Since heroin can cause nausea and vomiting, a significant number of deaths attributed to heroin overdose are caused by aspiration of vomit by an unconscious person. Some sources quote the median lethal dose (for an average 75 kg opiate-naive individual) as being between 75 and 600 mg. Illicit heroin is of widely varying and unpredictable purity. This means that the user may prepare what they consider to be a moderate dose while actually taking far more than intended. Also, tolerance typically decreases after a period of abstinence. If this occurs and the user takes a dose comparable to their previous use, the user may experience drug effects that are much greater than expected, potentially resulting in an overdose. It has been speculated that an unknown portion of heroin-related deaths are the result of an overdose or allergic reaction to quinine, which may sometimes be used as a cutting agent.
When taken orally, heroin undergoes extensive first-pass metabolism via deacetylation, making it a prodrug for the systemic delivery of morphine. When the drug is injected, however, it avoids this first-pass effect, very rapidly crossing the blood–brain barrier because of the presence of the acetyl groups, which render it much more fat soluble than morphine itself. Once in the brain, it then is deacetylated variously into the inactive 3-monoacetylmorphine and the active 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM), and then to morphine, which bind to μ-opioid receptors, resulting in the drug's euphoric, analgesic (pain relief), and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects; heroin itself exhibits relatively low affinity for the μ receptor. Analgesia follows from the activation of the μ receptor G-protein coupled receptor, which indirectly hyperpolarizes the neuron, reducing the release of nociceptive neurotransmitters, and hence, causes analgesia and increased pain tolerance.
Unlike hydromorphone and oxymorphone, however, administered intravenously, heroin creates a larger histamine release, similar to morphine, resulting in the feeling of a greater subjective "body high" to some, but also instances of pruritus (itching) when they first start using.
Normally GABA, released from inhibitory neurones, inhibits the release of dopamine. Opiates, like heroin and morphine, decrease the inhibitory activity of such neurones. This causes increased release of dopamine in the brain which is the reason for euphoric and rewarding effects of heroin.
Both morphine and 6-MAM are μ-opioidagonists that bind to receptors present throughout the brain, spinal cord, and gut of all mammals. The μ-opioid receptor also binds endogenous opioid peptides such as β-endorphin, Leu-enkephalin, and Met-enkephalin. Repeated use of heroin results in a number of physiological changes, including an increase in the production of μ-opioid receptors (upregulation). These physiological alterations lead to tolerance and dependence, so that stopping heroin use results in uncomfortable symptoms including pain, anxiety, muscle spasms, and insomnia called the opioid withdrawal syndrome. Depending on usage it has an onset 4–24 hours after the last dose of heroin. Morphine also binds to δ- and κ-opioid receptors.
There is also evidence that 6-MAM binds to a subtype of μ-opioid receptors that are also activated by the morphine metabolite morphine-6β-glucuronide but not morphine itself. The third subtype of third opioid type is the mu-3 receptor, which may be a commonality to other six-position monoesters of morphine. The contribution of these receptors to the overall pharmacology of heroin remains unknown.
A subclass of morphine derivatives, namely the 3,6 esters of morphine, with similar effects and uses, includes the clinically used strong analgesics nicomorphine (Vilan), and dipropanoylmorphine; there is also the latter's dihydromorphine analogue, diacetyldihydromorphine (Paralaudin). Two other 3,6 diesters of morphine invented in 1874–75 along with diamorphine, dibenzoylmorphine and acetylpropionylmorphine, were made as substitutes after it was outlawed in 1925 and, therefore, sold as the first "designer drugs" until they were outlawed by the League of Nations in 1930.
Diamorphine is produced from acetylation of morphine derived from natural opium sources, generally using acetic anhydride.
The major metabolites of diamorphine, 6-MAM, morphine, morphine-3-glucuronide, and morphine-6-glucuronide, may be quantitated in blood, plasma or urine to monitor for use, confirm a diagnosis of poisoning, or assist in a medicolegal death investigation. Most commercial opiate screening tests cross-react appreciably with these metabolites, as well as with other biotransformation products likely to be present following usage of street-grade diamorphine such as 6-acetylcholine and codeine. However, chromatographic techniques can easily distinguish and measure each of these substances. When interpreting the results of a test, it is important to consider the diamorphine usage history of the individual, since a chronic user can develop tolerance to doses that would incapacitate an opiate-naive individual, and the chronic user often has high baseline values of these metabolites in his system. Furthermore, some testing procedures employ a hydrolysis step before quantitation that converts many of the metabolic products to morphine, yielding a result that may be 2 times larger than with a method that examines each product individually.
See also: History of opium in China
The opium poppy was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia as long ago as 3400 BC. The chemical analysis of opium in the 19th century revealed that most of its activity could be ascribed to the alkaloidscodeine and morphine.
Diamorphine was first synthesized in 1874 by C. R. Alder Wright, an English chemist working at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London who had been experimenting combining morphine with various acids. He boiled anhydrous morphine alkaloid with acetic anhydride for several hours and produced a more potent, acetylated form of morphine which is now called diacetylmorphine or morphine diacetate. He sent the compound to F. M. Pierce of Owens College in Manchester for analysis. Pierce told Wright:
Doses… were subcutaneously injected into young dogs and rabbit… with the following general results… great prostration, fear, and sleepiness speedily following the administration, the eyes being sensitive, and pupils constrict, considerable salivation being produced in dogs, and a slight tendency to vomiting in some cases, but no actual emesis. Respiration was at first quickened, but subsequently reduced, and the heart's action was diminished and rendered irregular. Marked want of coordinating power over the muscular movements, and loss of power in the pelvis and hind limbs, together with a diminution of temperature in the rectum of about 4°.
Wright's invention did not lead to any further developments, and diamorphine became popular only after it was independently re-synthesized 23 years later by chemist Felix Hoffmann. Hoffmann was working at Bayer pharmaceutical company in Elberfeld, Germany, and his supervisor Heinrich Dreser instructed him to acetylate morphine with the objective of producing codeine, a constituent of the opium poppy that is pharmacologically similar to morphine but less potent and less addictive. Instead, the experiment produced an acetylated form of morphine one and a half to two times more potent than morphine itself. The head of Bayer's research department reputedly coined the drug's new name of "heroin," based on the German heroisch which means "heroic, strong" (from the ancient Greek word "heros, ήρως"). Bayer scientists were not the first to make heroin, but their scientists discovered ways to make it, and Bayer led the commercialization of heroin.
In 1895, Bayer marketed diacetylmorphine as an over-the-counter drug under the trademark name Heroin. It was developed chiefly as a morphine substitute for cough suppressants that did not have morphine's addictive side-effects. Morphine at the time was a popular recreational drug, and Bayer wished to find a similar but non-addictive substitute to market. However, contrary to Bayer's advertising as a "non-addictive morphine substitute," heroin would soon have one of the highest rates of addiction among its users.
From 1898 through to 1910, diamorphine was marketed under the trademark name Heroin as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant. In the 11th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica (1910), the article on morphine states: "In the cough of phthisis minute doses [of morphine] are of service, but in this particular disease morphine is frequently better replaced by codeine or by heroin, which checks irritable coughs without the narcotism following upon the administration of morphine."
In the US, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed in 1914 to control the sale and distribution of diacetylmorphine and other opioids, which allowed the drug to be prescribed and sold for medical purposes. In 1924, the United States Congress banned its sale, importation, or manufacture. It is now a Schedule I substance, which makes it illegal for non-medical use in signatory nations of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs treaty, including the United States.
The Health Committee of the League of Nations banned diacetylmorphine in 1925, although it took more than three years for this to be implemented. In the meantime, the first designer drugs, viz. 3,6 diesters and 6 monoesters of morphine and acetylated analogues of closely related drugs like hydromorphone and dihydromorphine, were produced in massive quantities to fill the worldwide demand for diacetylmorphine—this continued until 1930 when the Committee banned diacetylmorphine analogues with no therapeutic advantage over drugs already in use, the first major legislation of this type.
Bayer lost some of its trademark rights to heroin (as well as aspirin) under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles following the German defeat in World War I.
Use of heroin by jazz musicians in particular was prevalent in the mid-twentieth century, including Billie Holiday, saxophonists Charlie Parker and Art Pepper, guitarist Joe Pass and piano player/singer Ray Charles; a "staggering number of jazz musicians were addicts". It was also a problem with many rock musicians, particularly from the late 1960s through the 1990s. Pete Doherty is also a self-confessed user of heroin.Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain's heroin addiction was well documented.Pantera frontman, Phil Anselmo, turned to heroin while touring during the 1990s to cope with his back pain.James Taylor, Jimmy Page, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Keith Richards and Janis Joplin also used heroin. Many musicians have made songs referencing their heroin usage.
Society and culture
"Diamorphine" is the Recommended International Nonproprietary Name and British Approved Name. Other synonyms for heroin include: diacetylmorphine, and morphine diacetate. Heroin is also known by many street names including dope, H, smack, junk, horse, scag, and brown, among others.
In Hong Kong, diamorphine is regulated under Schedule 1 of Hong Kong's Chapter 134 Dangerous Drugs Ordinance. It is available by prescription. Anyone supplying diamorphine without a valid prescription can be fined $5,000,000 (HKD) and imprisoned for life. The penalty for trafficking or manufacturing diamorphine is a $5,000,000 (HKD) fine and life imprisonment. Possession of diamorphine without a license from the Department of Health is illegal with a $1,000,000 (HKD) fine and 7 years of jail time.
In the Netherlands, diamorphine is a List I drug of the Opium Law. It is available for prescription under tight regulation exclusively to long-term addicts for whom methadone maintenance treatment has failed. It cannot be used to treat severe pain or other illnesses.
In the United Kingdom, diamorphine is available by prescription, though it is a restricted Class A drug. According to the 50th edition of the British National Formulary (BNF), diamorphine hydrochloride may be used in the treatment of acute pain, myocardial infarction, acute pulmonary oedema, and chronic pain. The treatment of chronic non-malignant pain must be supervised by a specialist. The BNF notes that all opioid analgesics cause dependence and tolerance but that this is "no deterrent in the control of pain in terminal illness". When used in the palliative care of cancer patients, diamorphine is often injected using a syringe driver.
In Switzerland, heroin is produced in injectable or tablet form under the name Diaphin by a private company under contract to the Swiss government. Swiss-produced heroin has been imported into Canada with government approval.
In Australia diamorphine is listed as a schedule 9 prohibited substance under the Poisons Standard (October 2015). A schedule 9 drug is outlined in the Poisons Act 1964 as "Substances which may be abused or misused, the manufacture, possession, sale or use of which should be prohibited by law except when required for medical or scientific research, or for analytical, teaching or training purposes with approval of the CEO."
In Canada, diamorphine is a controlled substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Any person seeking or obtaining diamorphine without disclosing authorization 30 days before obtaining another prescription from a practitioner is guilty of an indictable offense and subject to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years. Possession of diamorphine for the purpose of trafficking is an indictable offense and subject to imprisonment for life.
In the United States, diamorphine is a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, making it illegal to possess without a DEA license. Possession of more than 100 grams of diamorphine or a mixture containing diamorphine is punishable with a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years of imprisonment in a federal prison.
In 2021, the US state of Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the use of heroin after voters passed Ballot Measure 110 in 2020. This measure will allow people with small amounts to avoid arrest.
See also: Illegal drug trade in Turkey
Turkey maintains strict laws against the use, possession or trafficking of illegal drugs. If convicted under these offences, one could receive a heavy fine or a prison sentence of 4 to 24 years.
Misuse of prescription medication
Misused prescription medicine, such as opioids, can lead to heroin use and dependence. The number of death from illegal opioid overdose follows the increasing number of death caused by prescription opioid overdoses. Prescription opioids are relatively easy to obtain. This may ultimately lead to heroin injection because heroin is cheaper than prescribed pills.
Diamorphine is produced from acetylation of morphine derived from natural opium sources. One such method of heroin production involves isolation of the water-soluble components of raw opium, including morphine, in a strongly basic aqueous solution, followed by recrystallization of the morphine base by addition of ammonium chloride. The solid morphine base is then filtered out. The morphine base is then reacted with acetic anhydride, which forms heroin. This highly impure brown heroin base may then undergo further purification steps, which produces a white-colored product; the final products have a different appearance depending on purity and have different names. Heroin purity has been classified into four grades. No.4 is the purest form – white powder (salt) to be easily dissolved and injected. No.3 is "brown sugar" for smoking (base). No.1 and No.2 are unprocessed raw heroin (salt or base).
See also: Opium § Modern production and usage
Traffic is heavy worldwide, with the biggest producer being Afghanistan. According to a U.N. sponsored survey, in 2004, Afghanistan accounted for production of 87 percent of the world's diamorphine. Afghan opium kills around 100,000 people annually.
In 2003 The Independent reported:
... The cultivation of opium [in Afghanistan] reached its peak in 1999, when 350 square miles (910 km2) of poppies were sown ... The following year the Taliban banned poppy cultivation, ... a move which cut production by 94 percent ... By 2001 only 30 square miles (78 km2) of land were in use for growing opium poppies. A year later, after American and British troops had removed the Taliban and installed the interim government, the land under cultivation leapt back to 285 square miles (740 km2), with Afghanistan supplanting Burma to become the world's largest opium producer once more.
Opium production in that country has increased rapidly since, reaching an all-time high in 2006. War in Afghanistan once again appeared as a facilitator of the trade. Some 3.3 million Afghans are involved in producing opium.
At present, opium poppies are mostly grown in Afghanistan (224,000 hectares (550,000 acres)), and in Southeast Asia, especially in the region known as the Golden Triangle straddling Burma (57,600 hectares (142,000 acres)), Thailand, Vietnam, Laos (6,200 hectares (15,000 acres)) and Yunnan province in China. There is also cultivation of opium poppies in Pakistan (493 hectares (1,220 acres)), Mexico (12,000 hectares (30,000 acres)) and in Colombia (378 hectares (930 acres)). According to the DEA, the majority of the heroin consumed in the United States comes from Mexico (50%) and Colombia (43-45%) via Mexican criminal cartels such as Sinaloa Cartel. However, these statistics may be significantly unreliable, the DEA's 50/50 split between Colombia and Mexico is contradicted by the amount of hectares cultivated in each country and in 2014, the DEA claimed most of the heroin in the US came from Colombia. As of 2015[update], the Sinaloa Cartel is the most active drug cartel involved in smuggling illicit drugs such as heroin into the United States and trafficking them throughout the United States. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 90% of the heroin seized in Canada (where the origin was known) came from Afghanistan. Pakistan is the destination and transit point for 40 percent of the opiates produced in Afghanistan, other destinations of Afghan opiates are Russia, Europe and Iran.
A conviction for trafficking heroin carries the death penalty in most Southeast Asian, some East Asian and Middle Eastern countries (see Use of death penalty worldwide for details), among which Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are the most strict. The penalty applies even to citizens of countries where the penalty is not in place, sometimes causing controversy when foreign visitors are arrested for trafficking, for example, the arrest of nine Australians in Bali, the death sentence given to Nola Blake in Thailand in 1987, or the hanging of an Australian citizen Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore.
The origins of the present international illegal heroin trade can be traced back to laws passed in many countries in the early 1900s that closely regulated the production and sale of opium and its derivatives including heroin. At first, heroin flowed from countries where it was still legal into countries where it was no longer legal. By the mid-1920s, heroin production had been made illegal in many parts of the world. An illegal trade developed at that time between heroin labs in China (mostly in Shanghai and Tianjin) and other nations. The weakness of the government in China and conditions of civil war enabled heroin production to take root there. Chinese triad gangs eventually came to play a major role in the illicit heroin trade. The French Connection route started in the 1930s.
Heroin trafficking was virtually eliminated in the US during World War II because of temporary trade disruptions caused by the war. Japan's war with China had cut the normal distribution routes for heroin and the war had generally disrupted the movement of opium. After World War II, the Mafia took advantage of the weakness of the postwar Italian government and set up heroin labs in Sicily. The Mafia took advantage of Sicily's location along the historic route opium took westward into Europe and the United States. Large-scale international heroin production effectively ended in China with the victory of the communists in the civil war in the late 1940s. The elimination of Chinese production happened at the same time that Sicily's role in the trade developed.
Although it remained legal in some countries until after World War II, health risks, addiction, and widespread recreational use led most western countries to declare heroin a controlled substance by the latter half of the 20th century. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the CIA supported anti-Communist Chinese Nationalists settled near the Sino-Burmese border and Hmong tribesmen in Laos. This helped the development of the Golden Triangle opium production region, which supplied about one-third of heroin consumed in the US after the 1973 American withdrawal from Vietnam. In 1999, Burma, the heartland of the Golden Triangle, was the second-largest producer of heroin, after Afghanistan.
The Soviet-Afghan war led to increased production in the Pakistani-Afghan border regions, as US-backed mujaheddin militants raised money for arms from selling opium, contributing heavily to the modern Golden Crescent creation. By 1980, 60 percent of the heroin sold in the US originated in Afghanistan. It increased international production of heroin at lower prices in the 1980s. The trade shifted away from Sicily in the late 1970s as various criminal organizations violently fought with each other over the trade. The fighting also led to a stepped-up government law enforcement presence in Sicily.
Following the discovery at a Jordanian airport of a toner cartridge that had been modified into an improvised explosive device, the resultant increased level of airfreight scrutiny led to a major shortage (drought) of heroin from October 2010 until April 2011. This was reported in most of mainland Europe and the UK which led to a price increase of approximately 30 percent in the cost of street heroin and increased demand for diverted methadone. The number of addicts seeking treatment also increased significantly during this period. Other heroin droughts (shortages) have been attributed to cartels restricting supply in order to force a price increase and also to a fungus that attacked the opium crop of 2009. Many people[weasel words] thought that the American government had introduced pathogens into the Afghanistan atmosphere in order to destroy the opium crop and thus starve insurgents of income.
On 13 March 2012, Haji Bagcho, with ties to the Taliban, was convicted by a US District Court of conspiracy, distribution of heroin for importation into the United States and narco-terrorism. Based on heroin production statistics compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2006, Bagcho's activities accounted for approximately 20 percent of the world's total production for that year.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reports that the retail price of brown heroin varies from €14.5 per gram in Turkey to €110 per gram in Sweden, with most European countries reporting typical prices of €35–40 per gram. The price of white heroin is reported only by a few European countries and ranged between €27 and €110 per gram.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime claims in its 2008 World Drug Report that typical US retail prices are US$172 per gram.
Main articles: Harm reduction, Safe injection sites, and Needle exchange programs
Harm reduction is a public health philosophy that seeks to reduce the harms associated with the use of illicit drugs. One aspect of harm reduction initiatives focuses on the behaviour of individual users. In the case of diamorphine, this includes promoting safer means of taking the drug, such as smoking, nasal use, oral or rectal insertion. This attempts to avoid the higher risks of overdose, infections, and blood-borne viruses associated with injecting the drug. Other measures include using a small amount of the drug first to gauge the strength and minimize the risks of overdose. For the same reason, poly drug use (the use of two or more drugs at the same time) is discouraged. Injecting diamorphine users are encouraged to use new needles, syringes, spoons/steri-cups, and filters every time they inject and not share these with other users. Users are also encouraged to not use it on their own, as others can assist in the event of an overdose.
Governments that support a harm reduction approach usually fund needle and syringe exchange programs, which supply new needles and syringes on a confidential basis, as well as education on proper filtering before injection, safer injection techniques, safe disposal of used injecting gear and other equipment used when preparing diamorphine for injection may also be supplied including citric acid sachets/vitamin C sachets, steri-cups, filters, alcohol pre-injection swabs, sterile water ampules and tourniquets (to stop the use of shoelaces or belts).
Another harm reduction measure employed for example in Europe, Canada, and Australia are safe injection sites where users can inject diamorphine and cocaine under the supervision of medically trained staff. Safe injection sites are low threshold and allow social services to approach problem users that would otherwise be hard to reach. In the UK the Criminal Justice System has a protocol in place that requires that any individual that is arrested and is suspected of having a substance misuse problem be offered the chance to enter a treatment program. This has had the effect of drastically reducing an area's crime rate as individuals arrested for theft in order to supply the funds for their drugs are no longer in the position of having to steal to purchase heroin because they have been placed onto a methadone program, quite often more quickly than would have been possible had they not been arrested. This aspect of harm reduction is seen as being beneficial to both the individual and the community at large, who are then protected from the possible theft of their goods.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Swiss authorities ran the ZIPP-AIDS (Zurich Intervention Pilot Project), handing out free syringes in the officially tolerated drug scene in Platzspitz park. In 1994, Zurich started a pilot project using prescription heroin in heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) which allowed users to obtain heroin and inject it under medical supervision. The HAT program proved to be cost-beneficial to society and improve patients overall health and social stability and has since been introduced in multiple European countries.
Researchers are attempting to reproduce the biosynthetic pathway that produces morphine in genetically engineeredyeast. In June 2015 the S-reticuline could be produced from sugar and R-reticuline could be converted to morphine, but the intermediate reaction could not be performed.
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