Opiates Vs. Opioids: How Do They Differ?

opiates vs. opioids

Opioid and Opiates are two different words often used interchangeably. When people talk about the drug epidemic, they say “opioid epidemic” or “opiate epidemic.” 

Opioids refer to both natural and synthetic forms of opioids. Synthetic opium drugs contain natural opium, which is then altered by the addition of artificial opioids. Opiates are, however, referred to as opioid drugs found from the natural opium poppy plant. 

The trick is- all opiates are opioids, but not all opioids are opiates. Also, there’s a misconception that drugs are extracted from nature; hence it is less harmful. The fact is opiates are highly addictive and can be misused just like opioids. 

The Basic Difference

Both opiates and opioids are two different kinds of drugs. 

Opioids Drugs- 

  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Thebaine
  • Heroin
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxecta, Roxicodone)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)


Opiates Drugs- 

  • Fentanyl (Abstral, Actiq, Fentora, Duragesic, Lazanda, Subsys)
  • Methadone (Methadose, Dolophine)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Tramadol (ConZip, Ryzolt, Ultram)
opiates Vs. opioids

Both kinds of opioids are related to brain opioid receptors. These receptors control pain, addictive behavior, and reward. Each drug varies in its effects; however, the feeling is similar. 

Opioids or opiates are often used to alleviate pain. These drugs lessen anxiety-inducing a euphoric feeling. These feelings, however, temporarily worsen your existing condition. Opioid and Opiate are prescription drugs for pain relief.

They are used as potent painkillers to treat moderate, chronic, or severe pain. These drugs include the natural alkaloids codeine and morphine, as well as semi or fully synthetic compounds derived from them. They are also referred to as narcotic painkillers. 

There’s an argument about whether opioids are more addictive than opiates. Opioids come with stronger concentration; hence they are more powerful and addictive. A powerful drug will leave a more potent effect but will cause a chemical dependency and stronger withdrawal effects. Withdrawal is the main reason why seeking treatment for opioids addiction is severe. 

Not just the synthetic ones, natural opiates are extremely potent too. One of the drugs- heroin can cause addiction and chemical dependency. It is challenging to draw the line between recreational use of opioids, which later becomes an addiction. 

Natural versus synthetic opioids addiction- All opioids are connected to the same brain receptors; the mechanisms of action and the tendency of addiction are very much similar.

The bonding action causes the effects of euphoria and chemical dependency. The only difference is their dosage. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are stronger as compared to natural ones leaving stronger chemical dependency and painful addiction treatment. 

Types of Opiates/Opioids Treatment

Opioids or opiates treatment depends on the severity and length of addiction. Treatment includes medical detox, outpatient/inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient care. 

Behavioral treatment: This treatment help you manage depression, avoid opioid cravings, and heal relationships with your family, friends, and loved ones. 

Inpatient Care: Sever addictions call for residential or inpatient rehab. The patient resides at the facility that follows a structured program. They offer around-the-clock care. The program includes- group, family or individual therapy, 12-step group program, and medical care. They help addicts develop a strong coping mechanism and recovery skills. 

Outpatient Care: Outpatient treatment offers flexible care options. This is suitable for people who have earlier received detox, inpatient care, or partial hospitalization. The programs involve regular meetings with a medical professional, psychiatric and nutritional counseling and therapy sessions. 

Opioid Antagonist: After you stop opioids intake, your body will react. You may feel nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and anxiety. These symptoms are called withdrawal. For relief from withdrawal symptoms, your doctor can prescribe certain medicines to control cravings such as methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine or methadone targets the same receptors in the brain as opioids. However, they do not make you feel high but help restore balance in mind and allow healing. 

Naltrexone is another medicine that helps you prevent relapse and recover from opioid addiction. Relapsing is going back to opioids addiction. This medicine works differently as buprenorphine or methadone as it does not work on cravings or withdrawal but help you prevent the feeling of high when you take opioids. 

The Way Forward

All opioids are central nervous system depressants. This makes them dangerous when abused. Addiction can happen just after a few days of regular opioid use. 

As we discussed, opioid withdrawal can cause physical symptoms- fever, nausea, vomiting, and constant headaches. Opioid abuse slows down your brain, lungs, heart, and other vital organs. You also face psychological symptoms like hypersomnia, insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, depression, and more. Opioids overdose is substance abuse. Opioid addictions lead to judicial consequences, and unlawful distribution results in imprisonment. 

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2 million Americans suffer from opioids overdose, and 130 Americans die every day due to opioid overdose. There are ways to control the opioids addiction. Individuals, families, doctors, and the government needs to work together to spread awareness and help the addicts with the proper treatment. 

Center for Disease Control and Prevention is implementing measure under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 which includes- 

  • Launching prevention efforts by helping states with resources, data collection, and encouraging the use of evidence-based care programs. 
  • Improving the data extraction process to understand and respond to the epidemic and identify areas that need special attention. 
  • Partnering with law enforcement officials to address the rise of the illicit opioid problem. 
  • Help healthcare providers with guidance on evidence-based decision-making to improve opioid prescriptions. 
addiction treatment in orange county


Table of Contents

Send Us A Message

More Posts