Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

What’s the difference between Opiates and Opioids?

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While opiates and opioids are often mentioned interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two. Despite these differences, these drugs can wreak havoc on users and their loved ones. This article will help you understand the difference between opiates and opioids and what you need to do to get help if you or a loved one is addicted to these dangerous drugs.

The Difference Between Opiates and Opioids

Over the past decade, the heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic has blossomed into a major health crisis. In 2016, approximately 64,000 drug overdose deaths were reported in the United States. Of those deaths, two-thirds were attributed to either heroin or prescription painkillers. Opiate and opioid abuse is usually front and center on the news and social media, and lawmakers have been frantically pushing through legislation in attempts to slow its’ progress. Understanding the difference between Opiates and Opioids is of ultimate importance.

What Are Opiates?

Opiate drugs such as heroin and morphine derive from the seed pods of the poppy plant. Opium, the most common drug created from the plant, has been used for thousands of years in various cultures as both a pain reliever and analgesic. Drugs such as heroin, morphine, and opium are extremely powerful central nervous system depressants.

What Are Opioids?

Unlike opiates, opioid drugs are synthetic and are formulated in a laboratory. These medications are created and used to help people better cope with pain and discomfort resulting from serious injury, surgery and chronic illness and disease. Also like opiates, opioids tightly bind with the brain’s opioid receptors which control responses to pain and help control essential bodily functioning such as breathing and heart rate. 

Vicodin, fentanyl, Percocet, OxyContin, and Demerol are common examples of opioid pain medications. When prescribed and monitored by experienced medical staff, opioids can be very effective, however as really only intended for short-term use, and long-term use can lead to changes in brain chemistry and desensitization to their effects requiring high doses to feel the same effects. 

Opioid medications are powerful tools when utilized in conjunction with a comprehensive pain management program. However, should be closely monitored and individuals prone to addiction should be very cautious when using these substances as these medications are highly addictive, and the potential for misuse and abuse are very high.

Symptoms Produced by Opiate and Opioid Drugs

Both opiates and opioids produce similar symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped by its physical, psychological and behavioral effects. The physical symptoms of opiates and opioids often include hypersensitivity to the environment, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure. 

Additionally, users can experience decreased appetite, significant weight loss and an increase in agitation and irritation. Regarding the psychological effects of opiate and opioid use, they can include an increase in anxiety and anxiety attacks. Those who use these drugs can experience an increased risk of developing psychosis and depression. Additionally, opioids and opiates can lower motivation levels of users.

There are also pronounced behavioral changes in those who use opiates and opioids. Users become more isolated and withdraw from family and friends. Users also lose interest in interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyable. Additionally, users can resort to stealing from family or other loved ones. Users often rationalize their misuse of these drugs and deflect blame towards others when confronted about their use.

Getting Help for Opiate or Opioid Abuse

Regardless of the difference between Opiates and Opioids, they are both addictive. For those addicted to opiates and/or opioids, it is imperative to seek professional help immediately. These drugs feature withdrawal symptoms which are painful and uncomfortable to endure. Trying self-detox methods can put users at risk for serious medical complications. If there are other drugs being abuse or any underlying medical issues, these complications can become life-threatening.

Proper drug treatment features medical detoxification which uses medications to make withdrawal more tolerable in the acute stages of detox. Substance abuse programs also feature intensive outpatient, and sober living programs to help those new in recovery get the extra support they need as they slowly reintegrate back into their normal daily routines. These programs also feature counseling, group therapy, life skills and coping skills training, and other traditional and holistic therapy options that can help create long-term sustainable abstinence from opiates and opioids.

Are you needing help? Call NuView Treatment Center today! NuView’s drug rehab in Los Angeles California, offers integrative intensive outpatient rehab programs that can be tailored to meet your unique needs. Our experienced staff will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan that will give you every chance to find lasting recovery.

Contact us for more information on personalized treatment options.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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