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The Differences Between Opioids and Opiates


A man sits on a fence looking forward into the distance.
Drugs like heroin, Vicodin and Percocet can destroy lives, but there is a way to move forward for anyone who wants it.

Opioids and opiates affect millions each year.

While not widely known, there are many differences between opioids and opiates, with one major thing in common: They can lead to addiction, overdose, and death.

Now that addiction to prescription opioids has contributed to an increase in addiction to heroin, an opiate, more and more deaths are attributed to the cheaper and more potent fentanyl, an opioid.

Codeine and heroin are both opiates, but one is relatively mild, something you can take for a cough, and the other can kill you.

It is essential to understand the differences between opioids and opiates while recognizing that they can have the same debilitating effects on your body. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we are here to help, no matter what type.

Continue reading to take a deeper look at the significant differences between opioids and opiates.

Opioids vs. Opiates

An opiate is any drug that is derived from the opium poppy plant, which is commonly grown in South America, Asia, and the Middle East. Opiate drugs include morphine, opium, heroin, and codeine.

Opioids are drugs that produce similar effects as opiates but are manufactured in a laboratory. Examples include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, and Demerol.

“Opioid” is an umbrella term, so opiates are also opioids.

You see, “opiates” are used less and less in media coverage, and the term is beginning to sound antiquated. The reason is that until the 1950s, few synthetic painkillers were being used and misused. Instead, they were all opiates derived from poppies.

Synthetic opioids have appeared and multiplied in the past 50 years or so. These drugs have become a problem because of their abundance and, in some cases, their potency. While you can’t patent morphine or heroin, you can patent novel synthetic drugs that act on the same receptors. The push in the 1990s to market these drugs as nonaddictive is part of the reason opioid addiction has become such a widespread problem.

The Effects of Opioids and Opiates

Both opiates and opioids work by blocking the pain signal or changing how a person experiences that pain. The problem is that the euphoric sense of well-being created by these drugs can be highly addictive.

Here is where things get a bit confusing: Because they share many of the same properties and risks, many people and organizations refer to both types of drugs as opioids.

You’ve undoubtedly heard politicians and media refer to the “opioid crisis.” Of course, they’re talking about heroin, prescription painkillers, and dangerous additives like fentanyl.

Many synthetic opioids are chemically similar to naturally derived opiates, and they all do the same thing.

Both suppress pain and cause euphoria to various degrees by interacting with opioid receptors. When taken in excess, they can stop breathing and heart rate, causing death. “Opioid” is an acceptable way of describing all of these drugs, and it isn’t necessary to bother with “opiate” at all.

Heroin and Painkiller Addiction Treatment in Denver

No matter how your addiction began or where it led, there is a way to break free from its hold on you.

At The Raleigh House, our first goal is to make you feel safe and comfortable. You’re then assigned your own master’s level therapist who will work with you to come up with a plan for personalized treatment and to rebuild your life.

One-on-one and group therapy sessions will help you heal emotionally, while chef-prepared meals and activities like yoga and boxing help heal your body. Meanwhile, you’ll stay in a clean and cozy setting that feels like home, with staff treating you like family.

Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the heroin addiction treatment program and the painkiller addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House.


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