Opiates are a group of medications produced from the opium poppy plant, or Papaver somniferum. Opiate medications relieve pain by altering the transmission of pain signals in the brain. The amount of pain relief experienced by a user depends on his metabolism and tolerance to the drug. Drug strength therefore can only be compared by potency, or the amount of drug required to produce a percentage of maximum effect.
Doctors prescribe codeine to relieve moderate pain. Most codeine in the United States is derived from morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA classifies pure codeine products as a schedule II narcoticâ??meaning they require a written prescription and cannot be refilled without approval. Codeine taken orally at 200 mg dosages is similar in strength to 30 mg of morphine, as explained by Sutter Medical Center.
Hydrocodone is derived from a naturally occurring opium substance made from thebaine. Doctors prescribe hydrocodone to treat moderate to severe pain. The drug classification assigned by the DEA depends on the dosage: hydrocodone medications of 15 mg or more are schedule II; less than 15 mg are schedule III. The potency of hydrocodone is similar to morphine, with both requiring about 30 mg to produce desired effects, according to Sutter Medical Center.
Because morphine is the main active ingredient found in the opium plant, it remains the standard by which pharmacists, scientists and doctors measure all other opiate drugs. Morphine relieves severe pain, but because it also induces tolerance and addiction, requires careful monitoring when taken for chronic pain. The DEA classifies morphine as a schedule II narcotic.
Oxycodone, another drug produced from thebaine, relieves moderate to severe pain. Prescription medications in the United States contain a combination of oxycodone with other medications such as acetaminophen or aspirin. Oxycodone combinations are schedule II narcotics; 20 mg of the drug is equivalent, in terms of strength, to 30 mg of morphine, according to Sutter Medical Center.
Hydromorphone, also known as dihydromorphinone or dimorphone, relieves moderate to severe pain. The DEA classifies it as a schedule II narcotic and indicates the potency as two to eight times that of morphine; it produces more sedation than morphine. The Sutter Medical Center indicates that 7.5 mg of hydromorphone is equivalent, in terms of strength, to 30 mg of morphine.
Fentanyl mimics the effects of morphine. The DEA notes that fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine, requiring only about 0.25 mg to 30 mg of morphine.