Difference between Opioids and Opiates

The terms opiates and opioids are sometimes used interchangeably on rehab sites; however, these are different substances. A person often associates opiates with opium or the poppy flower which it comes from. Opiods, on the other hand are less often mentioned in conversations, but is still related to the former opiate.

In medical jargon, opioid is any substance that binds to the body's opioid receptors. In this respect, the terms can be interchanged. In other words, not all opioids are opiates, but all opiates are opiods. There is a difference in the effects which opiates and opioids have on the body. It is this reason why it is important to know the difference between the two of them.

Opioids and Opiates

Both opiates and opioids stem from naturally occurring compounds found in the poppy plant. This plant produces a beautiful flower which leaves a pod containing opium after it's shriveled and died. Opium has been used for thousands of years for a number of different reasons; more recently the opioids and opiates have been used to relieve pain. This powerful property originates in specific alkaloids or compounds naturally in the plant itself.

Opiates are anything directly derived from opium. These include heroin, morphine, codeine and opium. Some people, including addicts, prefer opiates to opioids because they are considered to be natural.

Opioids are pain reliving medications which are synthetic or semi-synthetic. This means the active molecules have been manufactured in a lab and are considered chemically man-made. Due to the molecular make up, opioids act just like opiates in the human body. Name brand examples of opioids prescribed by a doctor, but heavily abused include Demerol, Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Methadone, Percodan and Percocet.

The most notable physical differences in each of the opiates and opioids are the strengths of the drugs. Codeine would be the least potent, after which Percocet, morphine, Oxycodone and Fentanyl would follow (not all listed). It's important to note that when a person takes more than the recommended dosage, the strength and effects of the drug becomes intensified. This is when overdoses and/or death can occur.

Agonists versus Antagonists

Apart from the initial strength of the opiate or opioid, another difference between the two is how they interact with cell receptor sites in the brain. For example, heroin or codeine activates receptors which stimulate endorphin secretions. There appears to be a connection between this natural increase in secretion and abuse in that these are more heavily abused around the world. Oxycodone and hydrocodone, although a synthetic opioid, also activate the same receptors in the brain and have an extremely high rate of addiction. Medications, opium and heroin's ability to turn on these receptors are called agonists.

Antagonists are drugs that block cell receptor sites in the brain. These are often used in rehab treatment programs and opiate detoxification for their ability to aid in the withdrawal process. Naloxone and Naltrexone block these areas and keep other opiates and opioids from accessing and turning on the brains' receptors. These drugs may also be used in an emergency when a person is overdosing on the substances listed above.

Is one more dangerous than the other?

Opiates and opioids can be extremely dangerous. It is not uncommon for a person, as well as, their loved one to believe that some are safer than others especially when they are naturally derived from the poppy plant. Realistically, there is no solid evidence to say that some are more harmful. Inherent risks come with any of these substances; for the most part opiates and opioids carry the same side effects when used. That said, when any of these drugs are abused, some can become more dangerous. This is particularly because of their strength, or in the case of heroin, what other chemicals could be mixed in.

Going to a Thailand Rehab for Opiate and Opioid Addictions

Whether you or a loved one is abusing opiates or opioids, an addiction treatment program should be sought. This is because the withdrawal of any opiate or opiod can be intense and extremely uncomfortable. It's not uncommon for an addict to be so scared of these symptoms that they avoid treatment all together. Rest assured a monitored detox at a Thailand rehab will help to decrease withdrawal symptoms and make the overall process bearable. Once a detox is complete, treatment can begin.