Opioids vs. Opiates: How Are They Different?

It can be difficult to distinguish the difference between opioids and opiates when researching addiction treatment. The distinction between the terms is somewhat significant, though they may be used interchangeably to refer to an entire group of drugs that activate opioid receptors, depending on context.


The Difference

What is an opiate?

The term “opiate” refers to a drug that is naturally derived from the flowering opium poppy plant. Some examples of opiates include morphine or codeine. In some instances, you might see opiates labeled as “natural” because the active ingredient molecules are created in nature. Even if labeled as natural, opiates are not any less harmful and are still highly addictive and frequently misused.

What is an opioid?

The term “opioid” covers a broad range of drugs, including opiates. Opioids are substances made synthetically, where active ingredients are created chemically by humans, and act like opiates in the body. Common opioids are OxyContin and Vicodin. Opioids bind to the brain’s opioid receptors – the parts of the brain responsible for controlling pain, reward and addictive behavior. Opioids tell the body to release endorphins that reduce pain and can cause euphoria.

As opioids are misused, the drugs chemically interact with opioid receptors on the nerve cells, in the brain and in the nervous system. The drugs initially produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain, but over time, opioids alter the chemical makeup of the brain, making the body dependent on the drug. Chemical dependence is a chronic and progressive disease that, if left untreated, can lead to physical, psychological and societal deterioration. Addiction can also be fatal.


Get Help With Opioid Addiction and Dependence

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, reach out to our experts at Serenity Oaks, San Antonio’s premier opioid addiction treatment center and suboxone clinic. We specialize in treating opioid dependence and offer individualized medication assisted treatment plans based on needs. Start your journey toward long-term recovery! Get more information by calling us at 210-549-4333 or filling out our online contact form.

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