NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Opiates

The Brain's Response to Opiates

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Hi, my name's Sara Bellum. Welcome to my magazine series exploring the brain's response to drugs. In this issue, we'll investigate the fascinating facts about opiates.

If you've ever seen "The Wizard of Oz," then you've seen the poppy plant—the source of a type of drug called an opiate. When Dorothy lies down in a field of poppies, she falls into a deep sleep. No wonder the Latin name of this plant—Papaver somniferum—means "the poppy that makes you sleepy."

Opiates are made from opium, which comes from the poppy plant. They can have important medical benefits—they're powerful painkillers, they are sometimes prescribed to control severe diarrhea, and they can also be found in cough medicine. Maybe you've heard of drugs called Vicodin, morphine or codeine. These are examples of opiates. When used properly for medical purposes, they can be very helpful. Opiates used without a doctor's prescription or in ways other than how they are prescribed, can be dangerous and addictive.

Heroin is another example of an opiate, but it isn't used as a medicine—it's used to get high.