Opiates versus Opioids. Are they the same?
Let’s first define the differences.
By Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics
There is an opioid crisis going on in this country. Or is it an opiate crisis? Or both?
There are lots of confusing things about these words that seem to be used to mean the same thing. But are they the same or are they different drugs? Well, it depends on the exact drug.
Let’s first define the differences.
Opiates come from natural substances and are derived from the poppy plant. For thousands of years, parts of the poppy seed have been dried to make opium. Even back then, the poppy plant was known to treat illnesses, induce sleep and improve well being. There is also a “high” that comes with taking the drug. Morphine and codeine are both Opiates.
Opioids are synthetic drugs, created with chemical compounds produced in a laboratory. They work by binding to the same receptors as opiates. These receptors are parts of the brain responsible for reward, controlling pain and addictive behaviors.
Today, you hear the word opioid being used for both opiates and opioids whether the drug is natural or synthetic. It is important to know that all opiates are opioids, but not all opioids are opiates. Click here to learn more about Opiate and Opioid drugs.
Bottom line? They are both addictive, even when prescribed by a doctor.
With all of these addictive properties, why would a doctor prescribe them?
- Toothaches and dental procedures
- Chronic conditions like cancer
- To relieve strong cough symptoms
Which Drugs are Opiates and which are Opioids?
Examples of opiates include heroin, morphine and codeine. The most common alkaloid that naturally occurs in the opium poppy is morphine.
These can be completely synthetic, man-made or semi-synthetic opioids (made with some natural components of the poppy plant).
Fentanyl, Butorphanol, Meperidine (Demerol), Diphenoxylate, Methadone, Propoxyphene, Pentazocine, Oxycodone (Oxycontin), Nalbuphine, Hydromorphone, Buprenorphine, Hydrocodone (Vicodin is the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen), Nalbuphine, and Oxymorphone.
Remember, all opiates are opioids, but not all opioids are opiates. Click here to learn more about these drugs.
What are there differences in the strengths of opioids versus opiates?
There are differences in the strengths of each of these medicines. The most important thing to remember is that when they are prescribed for you, you need to follow the instructions and take them responsibly. Be aware of the signs of abuse and addiction and take these things seriously. Why? Because the earlier you can deal with the issue, the easier it will be to help you with the addiction. Opioids and opiates are both serious medicine and the terms have come to be almost interchangeable. All opiates are opioids, but not all opioids are opiates. The crisis of these medications will continue to escalate unless you take the time and responsibility to talk with your doctor about the necessity of using them and how to use them safely.
Are the Drugs Legal or Illegal?
Demerol, Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet are legal to possess with a prescription from a doctor and taken by the actual patient. Morphine is legal when administered by a medical professional. Heroin is always illegal.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Opiate and Opioid Abuse and Addiction?
- Poor coordination
- Shallow or slow breathing rate
- Physical agitation
- Poor decision making
- Abandoning responsibilities
- Slurred speech
- Sleeping more or less than normal
- Mood swings
- Euphoria (feeling high)
- Lowered motivation
- Anxiety attacks
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For more information on drug testing, click here or call 1-866-242-5930.
Posted by Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics and Co-designer and Developer of the CR3 split-sample drug test cup. Bill has 27 years in sales management and marketing and is a 12 year veteran of the drug testing industry. As a parent and co-worker, Bill’s energy is focused on drug testing on every level. Addiction is all around us in alcohol, prescriptions and street drugs, and that is a constant reminder a drug free society starts with each and every one of us.
This information is meant for awareness and education purposes only. Any medical or life saving advice should come from experts. Always consult with your physician about any and all drugs. If it is an emergency, dial 911 or call emergency services.