(OPIATES & OPIOID)
MST Continous morphine sulphate tablets showing 10mg (brown) and 30mg (purple). The 60mg, 100mg, and 200mg strengths are of the same size tablet
Morphine ampoules containing medicinal morphine in liquid form and ready for injection.
Omnopon ampoules containing the drug papaveretum – a mixture of opium alkaloids in liquid for for injection.
Morphine powder ranges in colour from off-white to dark brown. It is rarely found at street-level.
Morphine granules, another form of illicit morphine. They are not common in Australia.
The opiates are found in a gummy substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian poppy, Papaver somniferum. Opium is produced from this substance, and codeine and morphine are derived from opium.
Other drugs, such as heroin, are processed from morphine or codeine. Opiate-related synthetic drugs, such as meperidine and methadone, are called opioids.
Forms and Appearance
Opium appears either as dark brown chunks or in powder form, and is generally eaten or smoked. Heroin usually appears as a white or brownish powder, which is dissolved in water for injection. Most street preparations of heroin contain only a small percentage of the drug, as they are diluted with sugar, quinine, or other drugs and substances. Other opiate analgesics appear in a variety of forms, such as capsules, tablets, syrups, elixirs, solutions, and suppositories.
Medical and Other Uses
Opiates and their synthetic counterparts (opioids) are used in modern medicine to relieve acute pain suffered as a result of disease, surgery, or injury; in the treatment of some forms of acute heart failure; and in the control of moderate to severe coughs or diarrhoea. They are not the desired treatment for the relief of chronic pain, because their long-term and repeated use can result in drug dependence and side effects (such as constipation and mood swings). They are, however, of particular value in control of pain in the later stages of terminal illness, where the possibility of dependence is not a significant issue.
A small proportion of people for whom the drugs have been medically prescribed become dependent; they are referred to as ‘medical addicts’. Even use of non-prescription codeine products, if continued inappropriately, may get out of control. Medical advice should be sought, since withdrawal symptoms may result from abruptly stopping use after physical dependence has been established. Because members of the medical and allied health professions have ready access to the drugs, some become dependent.
The Federal Narcotic Control Act regulates the possession and distribution of all opiates and opioids. The act permits individual physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and veterinarians, as well as hospitals, to keep supplies of certain drugs. Members of the general public must obtain these drugs from such authorised sources. Although the act also permits the prescribing of methadone in the treatment of heroin dependence, permission is given only to specially licensed physicians, and use is governed by specific guidelines.
Opiates have been used both medically and non-medically for centuries. A tincture of opium called laudanum has been widely used since the 16th century as a remedy for ‘nerves’ or to stop coughing and diarrhoea.
By the early 19th century, morphine had been extracted in a pure form suitable for solution. With the introduction of the hypodermic needle in the mid-19th century, injection of the solution became the common method of administration.