You hear about opioids a lot in the news lately, specifically how the opioid crisis is killing thousands of Americans every month. However, many people also use the word “opiate.” What’s the difference between an opiate and an opioid? There is a difference between opiate and opioid, sort of. An opiate is technically a drug derived from compounds found in the poppy plant. So opium, morphine, codeine, and heroin are all opiates. Opioids are a broader class of chemicals that activate opioid receptors in your brain. These do not necessarily derive from poppies. Drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, and fentanyl are all opioids. The distinction between opiate and opioid is not very significant. Some opiate drugs made from chemicals found in poppies may actually bear little resemblance to their original compounds, while some opioids not derived from poppies might resemble poppy-derived drugs pretty closely. What’s more, “opiate” and “opioid” give not indication of the strength of the drugs. Codeine and heroin, for example, are both opiates, but codeine is extremely mild, and prescribed for a bad cough, whereas heroin is extremely potent. When in doubt, “opioid” is always correct. It covers all drugs–opiate and opioid–that work on opioid receptors in the brain causing euphoria and pain relief. There is not really any reason to use “opiate” when it conveys so little information about the drug and when “opioid” is simpler and clearer. Up until about the middle of the twentieth century, there were pretty much only opiates. Drugs that behave like opioids were all derived from the poppy plant. Since then, there has been a proliferation of drugs that interact with the brain in ways similar to opiates. All these permutations vary slightly in their strength and function. Another huge advantage is they can be patented. A major driving force in the opioid epidemic has been the overprescription of these new opioids. “Opioid” is gradually displacing “opiate” in media coverage. It’s just too hard to make the distinction and it really serves no purpose. What’s more, new drugs appear all the time, and categorizing them as “opioids” when appropriate adds clarity. For example, when fentanyl started becoming a problem in recent years, people understand what you mean when you call it an opioid more potent than heroin. What’s more, very few people with opioid addictions are particular whether they use opiates or opioids. Many people start out using prescription opioids, eventually use heroin, then fentanyl. Sometimes people don’t actually know what they’re getting. Prince, for example, died from pills that were actually fentanyl disguised as something else. What’s important is that these drugs cause euphoria, pain relief, and can severely depress the central nervous system, leading to fatal overdose.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Recovery Ways is a leading addiction treatment provider with an excellent recovery rate. Our expert staff includes masters and PhD level therapists and board certified addiction psychiatrists. Our comfortable facilities will help to make your treatment as enjoyable as possible and our therapists use proven techniques like sensory integration and recreation therapy to help to engage the world without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Call us today at 1-888-986-7848 or email us through our contact page to learn more.