Are Opioids and Opiates Different?

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As you look into treatment options for your heroin, oxycodone, morphine, or methadone habit, you might get tripped up because the language keeps changing. In some instances, the addiction is referred to as an opiate addiction, in other cases, it is an opioid addiction? Can it be both? Is it one in certain circumstances and another in different circumstances? How do you know which one is correct and will not knowing have a negative impact on finding treatment?

Calm down. The basic answer is that the words both refer to the same thing, but we can get into a bit more detail than that.

If you are dealing with an opiate addiction and you need someone to answer your questions, help you find treatments, and direct you to resources, you can’t do better than Give us a call at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? .

The Basics

Opiates come from opium. For a period of time, the term “opiates” was reserved for those drugs that were naturally made from opium and “opioids” were those drugs synthetically produced to mirror the effects of opium. Now, the term opioid is used for all opiates, including natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus.”

Common opioids include:

  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Heroin
  • OxyContin
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Percodan
  • Tylox
  • Demerol


Opioids and Opiates

Dizziness and nausea are common side effects of opioids.

If you are abusing opiates, you are not alone and studies have the data to back this assertion up.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports characteristics of admissions and discharges from substance abuse treatment facilities in its Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS). According to 2013 findings:

  • Opiates other than heroin were reported as the primary substance of abuse for 9 percent of TEDS admissions aged 12 and older in 2013. These drugs include methadone, buprenorphine, codeine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, morphine, opium, oxycodone, pentazocine, propoxyphene, tramadol, and any other drug with morphine-like effects.
  • Forty-four percent of admissions for opiates other than heroin were aged 20 to 29 compared with 31 percent of all admissions. The peak age at admission for both males and females was about 25 years.
  • Non-Hispanic whites made up approximately 85 percent of admissions for primary opiates other than heroin (45 percent were males and 40 percent were females).
  • Primary opiates other than heroin were most frequently administered orally (59 percent), followed by inhalation (19 percent) and injection (18 percent).
  • Eighty percent of admissions for opiates other than heroin reported first use after age 16 compared with 52 percent for all admissions combined.
  • Medication-assisted opioid therapy was planned for 18 percent of admissions for primary opiates other than heroin.

Side Effects

Primarily, opiates are prescribed to treat pain. Consequently, one of the major effects is pain relief. However, there are other, less desirable effects.

Opioid Complications and Side Effects,” published in Pain Physician, identifies the following side effects:

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting: opiates stimulate opioid receptors in the gastrointestinal tract and the vomiting center of the brain
  • Constipation: opiates cause slow movements in the digestive tract, causing loss of movement of the intestinal contents, which leads to severe constipation
  • Physical dependence: long term opiate use may cause dependence on the drugs, leading to withdrawal if they are sharply discontinued
  • Tolerance
  • Respiratory depression: normally, a decrease in oxygen triggers the lungs to inhale, but opiates inhibit this response
  • Hyperalgesia: abnormally heightened sensitivity to pain
  • Immunologic and hormonal dysfunction
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Myoclonus: brief, involuntary twitching of a muscle or a group of muscles

Whether you call them opiates or opioids, the fact remains that any drugs used outside of a doctor’s specific prescription have the potential to do you harm. When you abuse those drugs, you are certainly putting yourself at risk. If you are ready to seek treatment for your addiction, it is time to call at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? .

Understanding the Dangers of an Opioid Tolerance

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