Opiates vs Opioids

Opiates vs Opioids: What is the Difference?

Last Updated: Apr 23rd 2020

Reviewed by Brian Ostertag

“Opioid” and “opiate” are two words that tend to be grouped in the same category. Many people are aware of the drug epidemic sweeping our nation. When people reference this issue, some may refer to it as the “opioid epidemic,” while others call it an “opiate epidemic.” It’s not always clear that these are two different types of drugs altogether. But, understanding the difference between opiates vs opioids will help you navigate the discussion of addiction

How are Opiates and Opioids Different?

Opioids are categorized as synthetic and natural forms of an opioid. The synthetic opium substance contains natural opium which is then used to create synthetic opioids. Opiates, on the other hand, are a subset of opioids.

Both of these drugs are typically prescribed to relieve pain and are central nervous system depressants. Two effects of these types of drugs are pleasure (euphoria) and pain relief. People may assume that because there are natural versions of an opioid, it makes it less dangerous. However, they are not any safer than opiates. 

It may seem like the difference between opiates vs opioids is fairly minuscule. However, you’ll notice that the examples of both types of drugs are entirely different. It is also worth noting that while all opiates are opioids, not all opioids are opiates. However, both of these drugs are highly addictive.

Examples of Opiates vs Opioids

As mentioned above, the difference between opiates and opioids is evident when examining the examples of each drug.

Generally, these are the opioids that are most commonly used:

  • Prescription opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodin
  • Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50–100 times more potent than morphine
  • Heroin

Examples of prescription opioids include:

  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen
  • Pseudoephedrine-Hydrocodone
  • Methadone Hydrochloride
  • Acetaminophen with codeine phosphate/Acetaminophen-Codeine

 Examples of opiates include:

  • Morphine (Kadian, MS Contin)
  • Codeine
  • Thebaine
  • Papaverine

Opiates vs Opioids: Do They Have Different Effects?

When distinguishing opiates vs opioids, you’ll find that they both produce similar effects in the brain. Both forms of opioids bind to the opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are the pain receptors, the reward receptors, and the receptors that control addictive behavior. 

These drugs produce a temporary feeling of calm and relief. Patients are often prescribed opioids to alleviate pain after an injury or surgery. Most people take opioids or opiates to receive a feeling of relaxation and euphoria. However, the long-term consequences of addiction are dangerous.

Other immediate side effects of opioids and opiates include:

  • Increased or false confidence
  • A relaxed state of mind and body
  • Slowed and shallow breathing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Itchy, flushed skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Lightheadedness

The feelings are temporary, but the consequences can be fatal. Recognizing the symptoms of opioid and opiate addiction can help you or a loved one put an end to the pain caused by addiction. 

Symptoms of Opiate and Opioid Addiction

The symptoms of an opioid or opiate addiction are fairly similar. In other words, there are similar signs that one can look out for, whether an individual is abusing opioids or opiates. Understanding and identifying these symptoms of addiction early on can save a life. 

The most common physical and behavioral signs of opiate abuse and addiction are:

  • Narrow/Tiny pupils
  • Flushed, itchy skin
  • Needle marks on arms and legs from (injected) use
  • Isolation from close ones and activities that once brought them happiness
  • Having trouble staying awake/falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Sudden and intense mood swings that seem out of character
  • Impulsive actions and problems with making decisions
  • Partaking in risky activities, such as driving under the influence
  • Visiting multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions

Symptoms of Opiate and Opioid Overdose

Opioid prescriptions drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, or morphine, can cause a diminished level of consciousness, depressed or slowed breathing, and a resulting lack of oxygen to the brain. An opioid or opiate overdose can also be fatal.

An opioid overdose can result after mixing alcohol, sedatives, or other opioids. However, opioid overdoses can also occur after an individual accidentally takes too much of their prescription medication. Symptoms of an opioid overdose include:

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Intermittent loss of consciousness
  • Marked confusion, delirium, or acting drunk
  • Intense sleepiness, or the inability to wake up
  • Breathing problems, such as slowed or irregular breathing
  • Respiratory arrest (absence of breathing)
  • Cold, clammy skin, or bluish skin around the lips or under the fingernails

Depressed breathing is the most severe of side effects. Lack of oxygen to the brain can result in permanent neurologic damage, as well as a widespread failure of the heart and kidneys. If there’s any sign of a potential overdose, call 911 immediately.

Treating Opiate and Opioid Addiction

No matter the treatment plan, you’ll always start the recovery journey off with an in-depth assessment. The primary focus of the assessment is to gain a thorough understanding of the patient. This will help our dedicated professionals formulate a treatment plan that suits each individual’s needs best. 

Our assessment evaluates each patient by offering questions such as: 

  • What is the length of use?
  • Are any other medications being taken? 
  • Are there special social or financial circumstances or needs? 
  • Is there a family history of addiction?
  • Should we be aware of any mental or severe health problems? 

Following the assessment, a thorough physical examination of the individual is next. This includes finding other common conditions (physical or mental) related to addiction, which would result in a dual-diagnosis.

Levels of Care for Opiate and Opioid Addiction 

The severity and length of your opioid or opiate addiction will influence what kind of treatment program will work best. There is a wide range of care when it comes to flexibility and components of treatment. What works for one patient may not be suited for another. We’ll make sure to walk you through each step of the way.

Inpatient Rehab/Residential Treatment for Opiate and Opioid Addiction

Residential treatment offers 24/7 medical support and care. Inpatient treatment programs, also known as residential treatment, offer the most intensive level of care. These types of programs are best suited for those with mild to severe addictions. These types of programs are also beneficial for those who find themselves living in a toxic home environment. Those who may not have support at home or live with others who are suffering from addiction may find that a residential program is the best option for them.

This type of rehab program offers an encouraging environment with lots of support. Individuals in recovery get to focus solely on their health and getting better with no harmful outside triggers. Patients reside at the treatment facility, so they can stay focused on their recovery. 

The majority of residential treatment programs last anywhere from 28 to 90 days. Our inpatient treatment programs for opiate and opioid addiction include:

  • 24/7 medical supervision
  • Dual-diagnosis treatment
  • Medication management, if necessary
  • One-on-one therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy, if needed
  • Holistic care
  • Aftercare planning

Outpatient Rehab Treatment for Opiate and Opioid Addiction

Outpatient treatment programs are the most flexible of all the levels of care that a rehab center offers. This type of treatment is ideal for those with a moderate addiction and a healthy home environment. These types of programs are also well-suited for those with outside obligations they must attend to. 

For example, you may have a child at home that you take care of. Perhaps, you’re taking classes at school you can’t miss or a job to maintain. Outpatient rehab can work around your schedule. There are specific days and times the patient will travel to the facility to receive treatment.

Outpatient rehabilitation programs fall into two categories: standard programs and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Standard programs do not have strict rules about the time you put in. In regards to IOPs, individuals must put in at least 9 hours of work each week.

These types of programs also serve as a way to step down after completing a higher level of treatment. Although these programs are less intensive, they still offer a high-quality level of care. From therapy to medical care, we have many drug and alcohol treatment resources. 

Some of the many resources of an outpatient treatment program include: 

  • Therapy sessions
  • Physical exams
  • Blood tests
  • Psychiatry evaluations

Call Us Today

Whether you’re struggling with an opiate or opioid addiction, our recovery center has a treatment program for you. We believe in the personalization of each treatment. Depending on your unique circumstances, we’ll tailor the treatment program accordingly. No matter how lost you may feel, there are brighter days ahead.

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we have many treatment resources to help you through recovery. Our team of expert physicians, psychologists, and other medical professionals are eager to help you change your life. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here for more information about treatment for opiate and opioid addiction. Don’t let addiction rob you or a loved one of another day.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brian Ostertag

brian-ostertag-150x150Brian Ostertag, BA, MA, LCADC, CCS, is the Clinical Director for North Jersey Recovery Center. Brian is a compassionate leader with a desire to see others exceed, and who believes that people want to work hard at something they find meaningful and believe in. He is a strong addiction services professional with degrees in Psychology Addiction Studies, and Pastoral Counseling.

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