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The Peaceful Pill Handbook The Role of Opiates and Opioids
Opiates are naturally occurring compounds that originate from the sap of the poppy, papaver somniferum. Substances derived from these compounds are opioids. These compounds all effect the same receptors in the brain and are generally used for the control of strong pain.
While morphine is the commonest example, other examples include, pethidine, codeine, methadone and fentanyl. The illegal drug heroin is also an opiate. All opiates have properties that make them difficult drugs for a person to use to reliably end their life.
The biggest problem associated with taking opiates is predicting the effect. There is remarkable individual variability in sensitivity to these drugs within the normal population. People who are similar physically (same height, weight, sex etc) can have a vastly different response to the administration of an opiate.
A small dose of morphine may have almost no effect on one person, while that same dose could kill another. Predicting the effect of the drug on an individual is difficult. When these drugs are used clinically the rule of thumb has been to ‘start low and go slow’ until the individual’s sensitivity to the drug is established.
Another difficulty with opiates is the rapid development of tolerance when the drugs are taken for any period of time. Within days, the morphine that initially had a powerful effect on the pain can become almost ineffective.