Intravenous Drug Use of Opioids and HIV transmission: Opioids 101

Opioids are natural and synthetic derivatives of opium, a compound produced by the poppy plant. Opium and its derivatives have been used for their medicinal purposes for thousands of years in many different cultures. It is interesting to note that the body produces its own class of chemicals that work in the nervous system the same way the opioids work. Two compounds from opium are morphine and codeine. The compound “morphine” is named after the Greek God Morpheus, the God of dreams. Indeed, morphine and other opioids can produce a euphoric, dream-like state, that can be quite pleasurable. This sensation activates the reinforcement pathways in the brain which drive the desire to seek this experience again. Heroin is another opioid derived from morphine.