For centuries opium was used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Derived from the poppy Papaver somniferum, it contains numerous opiates, the primary one of which is morphine. The term opiate has largely been replaced by opioid, which represents all compounds with morphinelike activity and includes morphine, morphine derivatives, and peptides. Opiate is used to refer to morphinelike drugs derived from the plant and structurally similar analogues. These drugs are frequently referred to as narcotics, a Greek term for stupor, which is scientifically obsolete. Even in its early history, opium presented a problem when it was smoked or taken orally. The introduction of the hypodermic needle and syringe, however, drastically enhanced the euphoric properties of opioids and thereby altered their abuse liability. In addition, the synthesis of heroin resulted in an opioid that was more potent than morphine and ideally suited for intravenous administration.
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