Understanding what heroin, other painkillers are


EAST PROVIDENCE —Most in the general public likely don't truly know what heroin and related painkillers are or what are their intended purposes. The following is a list terms and definitions to help better know what these drug are about.

From drugs.com, the following are definitions of heroin, percoset and opiate:

What is Heroin?

Heroin (diacetylmorphine) is derived from the morphine alkaloid found in opium and is roughly 2-3 times more potent. A highly addictive drug, heroin exhibits euphoric ("rush"), anxiolytic and analgesic central nervous system properties. Heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and as such has no acceptable medical use in the United States. Pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste. Most illicit heroin is sold as a white or brownish powder and is usually "cut" with other drugs or with substances such as sugar, starch, powdered milk, or quinine. It can also be cut with strychnine or other poisons. Because heroin abusers do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents, they are at risk of overdose or death. Another form of heroin known as "black tar" may be sticky, like roofing tar, or hard, like coal. Its color may vary from dark brown to black.

What is Percocet?

Percocet contains a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. Oxycodone is an opioid pain medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Acetaminophen is a less potent pain reliever that increases the effects of oxycodone. Percocet is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Percocet may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What is an Opiate?

A drug (as morphine or codeine) containing or derived from opium and tending to induce sleep and alleviate pain.

From about.com, the following is a list of 10 of the most addictive pain killers on the market today. They are all synthetic or semi-synthetic opiates. Most are usually prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain. Note, this is not a complete list, and many more addictive pain killers and other prescription medications are on the market:

1. Fentanyl: Available as a lozenge, injectable solution, or skin patch.

2. Stadol: Available as a nasal spray or injectable solution.

3. OxyContin: Available as a tablet.

4. Demerol: Available as an oral solution, injectable solution and oral tablet.

5. Hydrocodone: Available as an oral syrup and oral tablet.

6. MS Contin: Available as injectable solution, capsule, tablet, and suppository.

7. Percocet: Available as capsule, tablet, and oral solution.

8. Lorcet: Available as a tablet, capsule, and oral solution.

9. Dilaudid: Available as an oral solution, injectable solution, tablet, and suppository.

10. Zydone: Available as an oral solution, capsule, and tablet.

Editor's note: This is the third in a week-long series of stories attempting to understand the growing heroin epidemic locally and nationally

Part Four Thursday, An addict's perspective

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.