Opiates vs Opioids: What’s the Difference?

June 21, 2017

There are so many words out there that sound the same or look the same that it is so easy to use them interchangeably. Tomato, tomato (it doesn’t really work the same on the Internet); there, their they’re; effect, affect. It can be even more difficult with medical terminology if you do not have a background in it. One common “mistake” is opiates vs opioids.They look the same, they sound similar, but there is a fundamental difference between the two. However, it is not totally wrong to use them interchangeably.

Opiates vs Opioids

First, we will start with opiates. Opiates are the all-natural side of things; they are what is derived from opium. Did you know that opium is found in the poppy plant? The seeds on your hamburger bun won’t have the same effect as the drug, but it comes from the same seed. Not to get too technical, but the compounds found in this plant alter the way the brain processes pain and gives a sense of relief if someone is in extreme pain. It can also create a “high” feeling that may intrigue people to continue consuming opiates. Types of opiates include morphine, codeine, heroin, opium, and thebaine.

Opioids were once classified as “…synthetic opiates only (drugs created to emulate opium, however different chemically).”1 This still holds true, but now it has been accepted that “opioids” can be used to describe natural and synthetic versions. Opioids can be viewed as prescription medicines such as oxymorphone, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.

Is There a Difference, Then?

There is a difference between the two, chemically, but it is okay to say “opioid” whether it is natural or not. The commonality between the two is that either one can become addictive. If they are abused or taken consistently for long periods of time, the brain can build a tolerance causing someone to take more in order to get the same effect. It is important to follow doctor’s instructions if you are prescribed a pain pill and to notify them if you do not feel comfortable taking them anymore.

If you are concerned you may have an addiction to opiates or opioids, take this assessment to get better insight. There are many options for you should you have an addiction, and it is never too late to get help. If you live in Louisiana, AppleGate Recovery has a clinic in Monroe that is accepting new patients and specializes in medication-assisted treatment with the use of buprenorphine. This type of treatment has little interference with your daily life and can help start a new one, too.


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