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Common opioids and their potency levels

Opioids are a class of drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that include the illegal drug heroin as well as pain relievers available by prescription, including OxyContin, Vicodin, codeine and morphine. Opioids can include drugs derived directly from the opium poppy plant (opiates) or synthetically produced in a lab.

Here's a glossary of common opioids and their potency levels.


A natural substance derived from poppy seed pods, it is a key ingredient in the production of heroin and is also used legally as anesthesia or as a pain reliever. Morphine is 360 times stronger than aspirin or acetaminophen and 222 times stronger than ibuprofen, according to the DEA. The DEA says it can be used in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, suppositories and injections.


A long-acting synthetic drug developed by German scientists during World War II because of a shortage of morphine, it is effective in treating pain and opioid addiction. It is usually mixed with water and ingested, although illicit users of the drug may take it intravenously.


A drug processed from the seed pod of certain types of poppy plants grown in Central America, South America and southern Asia, it gives users a sense of euphoria or “rush,” according to the DEA, followed by a twilight state of sleep and wakefulness. It is highly addictive — with regular use, tolerance develops and users must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity. Heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug, which means the federal government believes it has no acceptable medical use and has a high potential for abuse. Heroin is twice as potent as morphine, according to the DEA. 


A synthetic opioid, it's responsible for many of the fatal overdoses reported on Long Island. Fentanyl, according to the DEA, is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. When used for medical purposes, it is used via an injection, a transdermal patch or in lozenges. As a street drug, it is sometimes mixed with heroin. It is typically swallowed, snorted or injected.