Opioids vs. Opiates: What is the Difference?

As the opioid crisis unfolds, it’s essential to understand the difference between opioids and opiates. This blog reviews the distinctions between these two substances. It also examines the opioid addiction treatment options available at Olympic Behavioral Health in West Palm Beach, Florida. By understanding the nuances between opioid vs. opiate, you can make better choices when seeking help for addiction.

Understanding Opiates and Opioids

The Origin of Opiates

Opiates, as naturally occurring substances, come directly from the opium poppy plant, scientifically known as Papaver somniferum. This plant has a long history of use, dating back thousands of years. Civilizations across the globe have harnessed its powerful properties for medicinal and recreational purposes.

opiate addiction treatment, opioid addiction treatment, addict, person, substance misuse disorder, substance use disorder, addiction treatmentThe most well-known opiates include:

  1. Morphine: It is named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. Morphine was first isolated from the opium poppy plant in 1803 by German pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner. It is a highly potent analgesic that manages moderate to severe pain. Morphine was widely used in clinical settings due to its efficacy. It remains a critical pain management option despite its high potential for abuse and addiction.
  2. Codeine: Discovered in 1832 by French chemist Pierre Robiquet. Codeine is another opiate derived from the opium poppy plant. It is commonly used as a milder pain reliever and cough suppressant. Codeine is often combined with other medications, such as acetaminophen or aspirin, to enhance its analgesic effects. Although it is less potent than morphine, codeine still carries a risk of dependence and addiction.
  3. Thebaine: Also known as paramorphine, it is another naturally occurring opiate alkaloid found in the opium poppy plant. It has a chemical structure similar to morphine and codeine but is less likely to cause addiction. Thebaine isn’t commonly used for pain relief. It is a starting material for synthesizing semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and buprenorphine.

Opiates have been invaluable in treating pain and other medical conditions. Their euphoric effects have also contributed to their recreational use and subsequent abuse. Over the centuries, the misuse of these substances has led to countless cases of addiction and overdose. This highlights the need for proper education, prevention, and opiate addiction treatment options.

The Rise of Opioids

opiate addiction treatment, opioid addiction treatment, addict, person, substance misuse disorder, substance use disorder, addiction treatmentOpioids, unlike opiates, are synthetic or semi-synthetic substances engineered to resemble the effects of natural opiates. Scientists created opioids to provide more potent, longer-lasting pain relief. In some cases, to minimize the risk of addiction associated with natural opiates. Some of the most commonly prescribed opioids include:

  1. Oxycodone: A semi-synthetic opioid, oxycodone is synthesized from thebaine, an opiate alkaloid in the opium poppy plant. Introduced in 1916, it was developed as a safer and more effective alternative to morphine and heroin. Oxycodone manages moderate to severe pain and is available in immediate and extended-release formulations. Despite its medical benefits, oxycodone has a high potential for abuse and addiction, contributing significantly to the opioid crisis.
  2. Hydrocodone: Also a semi-synthetic opioid, hydrocodone derives from codeine and doctors prescribe it for moderate to severe pain relief. Its use often combines with non-opioid analgesics such as acetaminophen to enhance its effectiveness. Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the United States. Its widespread availability has led to a significant increase in non-medical use, abuse, and addiction.
  3. Fentanyl: A synthetic opioid, fentanyl was first developed in 1959 and is approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Its primary use is in medical settings for severe pain management. Such as during surgery or for patients with chronic pain who already have a tolerance to other opioids. Due to its potency, fentanyl has significantly contributed to the opioid crisis. In fact, illicitly manufactured drug versions have dramatically increased overdose deaths. The side-effects of using Fentanyl are many.
  4. Methadone: A synthetic opioid initially developed in Germany in the 1930s, methadone primarily treats opioid dependence. It helps to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for opioids. Administration in a medical setting allows people to transition away from opioid use more comfortably. Methadone is also used for pain management, although its primary role remains in addiction treatment.

Opioids were initially developed to offer improved pain relief. In some cases,  it reduces the risk of addiction compared to natural opiates. However, their widespread availability and misuse have contributed significantly to the current opioid crisis. The development of new and more potent opioids has further exacerbated the issue. Thus underlining the need for continued research into safer and more effective pain management alternatives and comprehensive addiction treatment options.

The Opiate vs. Opioid Debate

Many people use “opiate” and “opioid” interchangeably. However, understanding their differences can impact treatment and prevention strategies for substance abuse and addiction.

Opiates are natural substances directly from the opium poppy plant, Papaver somniferum. These alkaloids, such as morphine, codeine, and thebaine, were used for centuries for their analgesic and euphoric properties.

Opioids, conversely, are synthetic or semi-synthetic substances designed in laboratories to mimic the effects of natural opiates.  Researchers engineered these substances, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and methadone to interact with the same receptors in the brain as their natural counterparts.

opiate addiction treatment, opioid addiction treatment, addict, person, substance misuse disorder, substance use disorder, addiction treatmentDespite their origin differences, opiates and opioids interact with the same opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system. These receptors, specifically the mu, delta, and kappa receptors, play a critical role in mediating the effects of these substances on the body. When opiates or opioids bind to these receptors, they can induce pain relief, sedation, and euphoria, among other effects.

The shared mechanism of action explains why both opiates and opioids can lead to similar outcomes. Outcomes include physical dependence, tolerance, addiction, and overdose. The potency and duration can vary greatly between individual opiates and opioids, affecting their potential for abuse and addiction. For example, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is significantly more potent than morphine, a natural opiate. This severely increases the risk of overdose and death when used improperly.

Many use “opiate” and “opioid” interchangeably in some contexts. Still, we must recognize the distinctions between these substances. Opiates are naturally occurring substances derived from the opium poppy plant. Opioids are synthetic or semi-synthetic drugs designed to mimic the effects of natural opiates. Both substances act on the same opioid receptors in the brain, leading to similar effects on the body. However, their potency and potential for abuse can vary significantly. Understanding these differences is crucial for making informed decisions about pain management and addiction treatment.

The Dangers of Opiates and Opioids

Opiates and opioids are addictive, and both have the potential for abuse. When used improperly or taken in large quantities, these substances can lead to severe health consequences, including overdose and death. Understanding the similarities and differences between opioid vs. opiate is crucial when discussing the dangers and seeking help for addiction.


Addiction and Dependence: Opioids vs. Opiates

Physical Dependence on Opioids

Physical dependence can occur with both opiates and opioids. When people use these substances regularly, their body becomes accustomed to their presence. This means withdrawal symptoms may occur if they stop using. These symptoms can be severe, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and anxiety.

Psychological Opioid Addiction

Psychological addiction is another aspect to consider in the opiate vs. opioid debate. Both types of substances can lead to cravings, obsessive thoughts, and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. The psychological aspect of addiction is often more challenging than physical dependence.

Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction

Several factors can contribute to developing an addiction to opiates or opioids. These include genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and mental health disorders. Recognize these risk factors and seek appropriate treatment.

Treatment Approaches for Opiate and Opioid Addiction

Several approaches are available for opiate or opioid addiction treatment. These include detoxification, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and behavioral therapies. At Olympic Behavioral Health in Florida, we support all treatment options to help people overcome opiate and opioid addictions.


Treatment Options at Olympic Behavioral Health

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Our PHP offers intensive support and structure for anyone needing a high level of care. This program provides daily therapy sessions, medical supervision, and group support.  PHP is a structured environment that promotes recovery and healing.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Our IOP is for those who require more flexibility in their treatment schedules. This program offers comprehensive support and therapy sessions several days a week. That way clients can maintain their daily responsibilities while receiving help.

Outpatient Program (OP)

Our OP provides ongoing support for clients who have completed more intensive treatment or need ongoing care as they transition back to their everyday lives. This program offers individual therapy, group therapy, and family support as needed.

Customized Treatment Plans

At Olympic Behavioral Health, we understand that each person’s journey to recovery is unique. Our expert team of therapists, medical professionals, and addiction specialists work together to develop customized treatment plans that address each individual’s specific needs and goals.

Opioid Addiction Treatment in Florida

If you or a loved one Can benefit from opioid addiction treatment in West Palm Beach, FL, Olympic Behavioral Health is here to help. Our compassionate team of dedicated professionals understands the complexities of opiate vs. opioid addiction and provides evidence-based treatment tailored to your needs.

With our comprehensive treatment options, including PHP, IOP, and OP, you can find the support and guidance to overcome opioid and opiate addiction and build a healthier future. Don’t let an addiction to opioids and opiates control your life.

Opiate Addiction Treatment in Florida

Contact Olympic Behavioral Health to get help today to discuss opiate and opioid addiction treatment options and take the first step toward recovery. Call our admissions specialists at [phone number] to speak with one of our experienced team members.

How Does Olympic Behavioral Health Remove Stigma from Addiction Treatment?

The word “addict” has a long history of negative connotations and stigma that can discourage those struggling with substance use disorders from seeking help. However, the treatment industry recognizes substance use disorders are complex medical conditions influenced by genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. As a result, we use more person-centric alternatives, such as “person in recovery” or “individual with a substance use disorder,” to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction. These alternatives acknowledge that addiction is not a choice but a medical condition that requires treatment and support. Wider acceptance of these person-centric alternatives can help reduce the barriers to addiction treatment and provide a more compassionate and understanding approach to those struggling with substance use disorders. It is essential to recognize that addiction is a complex medical issue and to provide appropriate support and treatment.

Is Olympic Behavioral Health the Best Treatment Center in Florida?

Finding the best rehab in FL can be scary for someone struggling with addiction. However, choosing an addiction treatment program in Florida with certifications and accreditations from reputable organizations such as FARR, Psychology Today, ACHA, CARF, LegitScript, and The Joint Commission can provide peace of mind. These organizations evaluate addiction treatment programs to ensure they meet high quality and safety standards. Opting for a program with multiple accreditations can indicate a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment that addresses the disorder’s physical, emotional, and psychological aspects. By choosing a treatment program with these credentials, they can be confident that they receive the best care and support for their recovery journey.

Addiction Treatment in West Palm Beach, FL

Olympic Behavioral Health provides incredible outpatient care for substance use disorder in South Florida.

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