Opioid drugs, composite image

Opioid drugs, composite image

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Caption: Opioid drugs, composite computer artwork. Molecular models of various opioid drugs are at top centre. Opioid drugs are obtained from the unripe seed pods (left) of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). The pods exude a white milky latex that dries to a solid resin, known as opium. It contains the potent analgesics (painkillers) morphine and codeine, and is used to treat severe pain. The drugs bind to opioid receptors on neurons (nerve cells) and block the pathway of pain signals. Other analgesic drugs and the recreational drug heroin are also derived from opium. All of these substances are highly addictive after only a short period of use. The body also develops tolerance to the drugs quickly and larger doses are needed to achieve the same effect.

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