The term “opiate
” refers to narcotic of “pain-killing” drugs
such as Morphine
which are derived from opium
. Opium is the sap of the “opium poppy”, as it is commonly called, or more specifically the plant Papaver Somniferum. In addition to the opiate drugs there exist other similar drugs referred to as “Opioids
”. Opioids are other drugs which have similar effects to the naturally occurring opiates
as a result of their interaction with the brain’s opiate receptors. This class of chemicals refers to such drugs as Fentanyl
, Levorphanol, and Meperidine.
The main naturally occurring opiates, Morphine and Codeine
, have a very complex chemical structure and as a result are very difficult to synthesize. As a result these drugs are commonly obtained by extraction of the Papaver Somniferum plant and its main product—opium. These methods of extraction have been known, honed, and carried out by numerous individuals for an extremely long period of time. The procedure is not difficult. The only barrier that arises is the sheer bulk of poppies necessary to produce an appreciable amount of morphine.
The first, and most common, semi-synthetic opiate drug produced is commonly referred to as “Heroin”, or more correctly—diacetylmorphine
. This chemical is produced directly from Morphine through the action of acetic anhydride. Again, the only barriers to the production of Heroin include the sheer bulk of plants necessary to produce an appreciable amount of morphine and the availability of acetic anhydride.
Other semi-synthetic opiate drugs which possess a very similar structure to Morphine include hydromorphine and oxymorphone
. The former is commonly known as “dilaudid” and is a very popular prescription drug
with a high abuse potential. The production of this chemical is also relatively easy. Oxymorphone is not nearly as common, yet it is more potent than the previously mentioned two and as a result is a desirable product.
The second major active constituent of opium is Codeine. The Codeine structure is also easily modified to yield both semi-potent and potent semi-synthetic opiate analogs. These include the chemical hydrocodone
, commonly referred to by one of its brand names “Vicodin”. While this chemical is more potent than codeine it is also far less potent than the morphine derivatives. The potent semi-synthetic derivative of Codeine is the currently popular drug oxycodone, commonly referred to as “Oxycontin” or “OC”. This chemical is appreciably stronger than both codeine and hydrocodone and is often preferred when compared to Morphine and Dilaudid.
In addition to Morphine and Codeine, opium also contains the drug Thebaine. While not a particularly active opiate, thebaine
is an important chemical precursor to other opiate drugs. The INCREDIBLY powerful opiate Etorphine is derived from thebaine through relatively simple chemical procedures. A wide variety of other opiate drugs are also produced from this chemical.
class of chemicals is a selection of drugs which share similar pharmacological profiles with the opiates. These drugs are considered purely synthetic, and are decidedly easier to synthesize than the opiates, baring the availability of direct precursors. Some of these drugs, such as Fentanyl, are produced through “total synthesis” from relatively innocuous and easy to obtain chemicals. It is this fact that results in the emergence every few years of “heroin substitutes” which consist of Fentanyl or Pethidine analogs. The synthesis of these drugs is not entirely difficult, although they do require some degree of chemical skill. It is this fact that limits the availability of these drugs in most areas. One analog worthy of mention is the drug Carfentanyl, which is another incredibly
powerful opioid. The popular quote from “Future Synthetic Drugs of Abuse” is that one kilogram of carfentanyl is equivalent to 40 metric tons of pure heroin.
The opiate and opioid drugs are a very powerful and exceedingly interesting class of chemicals. Though requiring a higher degree of skill to synthesize than most Phenethylamines
and other drugs, the synthesis of these drugs is not beyond the realm of possibility. It is important for any drug chemistry enthusiast to be familiar with the basics of their preparation. In the pages and articles compiled here you will find information relating to the synthesis of a plethora of these drugs.