Are Natural Opiates Addictive Too?

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It is well understood that heroin, a semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine, is one of the most addictive illegal substances, currently thought to have caused at least 23 percent of those who have used it to become dependent on it (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Although heroin is extremely addictive, many people believe part of the reason for this is because it is synthetic and that natural opiates are not addictive in the way synthetic opioids are. This is not true.

Natural Opiates are Addictive

Natural opiates, that is to say opiate-based drugs that occur in nature, are just as addictive as synthetic substances derived from opiates. For example, heroin itself is derived from morphine, a natural opiate that can be found in the poppy plant. Morphine is “habit-forming,” according to the National Library of Medicine, and those who are prescribed the drug for pain are told never to “take more of it, take it more often, or take it in a different way than directed” by their doctor. This is because non-clinical morphine use, or use of morphine that is different than prescribed, can lead to addiction.

As stated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, opium itself, a natural substance that is “extracted from the poppy plant, papaver somniferum,” is highly addictive. A list of natural opiates can be found below, all of which have properties that can create dependence, tolerance, and when abused, may become addictive.

How Addictive Are Natural Opiates?


Codeine is considered a natural opiate.

Opium itself can be extremely addictive, as can morphine. In fact, according to the NLM, the morphine solution “with the highest concentration” is only given to those patients who are “already tolerant” to the effects of opioid medications. Because the drug itself has such intense effects that could be dangerous to users who are not accustomed to them, and because these effects could become extremely addictive not unlike those caused by heroin, it is important that patients receive this substance only if they are truly in need of it and if they can handle the effects.

Codeine is also extremely addictive and has been known to be abused in its cough syrup form, especially by teenagers. Thebaine itself is not used to treat patients, but it can be synthesized into a number of substances including oxycodone, buprenorphine, and oxymorphone, which can all be habit-forming.

Why Do People Think Natural Opiates are Less Addictive?

Some people believe natural substances, products, and even drugs are safer than those that are synthesized in a lab. While heroin itself often contains additives that can be dangerous to the user, even sometimes causing “clogging of the blood vessels in the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain,” natural opiates can be very dangerous as well (Center for Substance Abuse Research).

A person can become addicted to a natural opiate just as easily as they can to a synthetic opioid. In addition, the former substances can also cause severe respiratory depression, dependence, tolerance, constipation, and any of the other issues caused by synthetic opioids.

Do You Believe You May Be Addicted to a Natural Opiate?

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