Drug and Alcohol - Opioid Addiction

Opioids vs Opiates: The Differences Between These Two Words for the Same Substances

What's the Difference Between Opioids vs Opiates?

Opioids vs opiates: Do you know the differences? Learn more about these highly addictive classes of drugs in our blog. Addiction to both is treatable.

Opioids vs opiates: is there a difference?

The phrases "opioids" and "opiates" frequently appear in pain management and pharmaceuticals, carrying significant weight of confusion and unpredictability. While both words refer to potent analgesic medications, significant differences must be understood.

Our exploration will begin by delving into the complexities of opioid drugs. We'll examine their chemical composition and their interaction with the body's systems along with how they're used to treat pain. Furthermore, we will look at the many types of opioid and opiate examples, from frequently given medicines like oxycodone and hydrocodone to potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Furthermore, we will review how long opioids and opiates remain detectable in the body.

To present a complete picture, we will also discuss the side effects of opioid & opiate use. Individuals can make informed decisions regarding pain management alternatives and mitigate any negative results by understanding the potential risks and complications. Throughout this blog, we hope to provide readers with a complete understanding of opioids and opiates. 

Opioids vs Opiates: What’s the Difference Between Opioids and Opiates?

Opiates and opioids are two different classes of drugs that are often confused and used interchangeably in everyday conversation. However, it is important to understand the differences between these medications as they can have very different effects on your body.

On the surface, both opiates and opioids are narcotic pain relievers. Opium is a natural substance derived from the poppy plant that contains potent alkaloid compounds called opiates. Opioids, on the other hand, are artificially produced drugs often made in a lab or synthesized from opium.

The main difference between these two classes of drugs is in how they interact with your body's receptors. Opiates bind to opioid receptors in the brain, while opioids interact with both opiate and non-opioid receptors in the body.

The other difference between opioids and opiates is their potential for abuse. Opioids are more potent than opiates and can have stronger effects on your body if taken excessively. This makes them more prone to addiction and abuse, which can lead to severe health complications and even death.

Opioids vs Opiates: What Are Opioids?

Opioids are drugs that interact with the body's opioid receptors. These receptors are primarily present in the brain, spinal cord, & other regions of the nervous system. These drugs are known for their substantial analgesic effects & are frequently used for pain relief.

Opioids can depress the central nervous system, resulting in pain relief, sleepiness, and euphoria. They attach to opioid receptors, decreasing pain signal transmission and altering pain perception.

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Opioids vs Opiates: Types Of Opioids

Opioids are categorized into numerous categories based on their source and chemical composition. The following are some examples of common opioids:

Natural Opioids (Opiates)


Morphine is one of the most powerful natural opioids. It is derived directly from the opium poppy plant. It is commonly used in medical settings to relieve severe pain. This can be post-operative pain or cancer pain.


Codeine is another natural opioid derived from the opium poppy plant. It has a lower potency than morphine. It is typically used in cough medicine to relieve mild to moderate pain.

Semi-Synthetic Opioids

Oxycodone (Roxicodone, OxyContin)

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid produced from thebaine. Thebaine is an alkaloid present in the opium poppy. It is often used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is available in various formulations, including immediate-release and extended-release formulations.

Hydrocodone )Lorcet, Norco, Lortab, Vicodin)

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine. Codeine is also frequently used with non-opioid analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It is used to treat mild to moderately severe pain.

Synthetic Opioids


Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. It is considered to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is mostly used in medical settings to treat severe pain, especially during surgical procedures. It comes in various forms, such as transdermal patches, tablets, and injectable formulations.

Much of the fentanyl abused is made in clandestine laboratories and smuggled into the US.


Methadone is a synthetic opioid with long-lasting effects. It is often utilized in opioid addiction treatment programs. It reduces withdrawal symptoms and decreases cravings, allowing people to stabilize and work toward recovery.

Other Synthetic Opioids


While tramadol is a synthetic opioid, it works differently than other opioids. It functions as a mild opioid receptor agonist. It also inhibits norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake. Tramadol is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.


Meperidine is another synthetic opioid, which was created to mimic the effects of morphine and heroin. It acts as an agonist that interacts with opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Meperidine is used mainly for treating pain, but can also be used as a general sedative.

Opioids vs Opiates: What Are Opiates?

Opiates are natural opioids that are extracted directly from the opium poppy plant. They include drugs like morphine and codeine. These substances are found naturally in the opium poppy plant. Opiates have been used for pain relief for centuries. Opiates can be identified by their unique chemical composition and origin from the opium poppy plant.

Types Of Opiates

Opiates can be categorized into numerous categories. Here are some common types of opiates.


Morphine is a powerful opiate chemical found naturally in the opium poppy plant. It is considered the prototypical opiate. Morphine serves as the foundation for the development of other opioids. Morphine is commonly used in medical settings to treat severe pain. Especially in post-operative or palliative care for cancer patients.


Codeine is a milder opiate derived from the opium poppy plant. It is frequently used as a cough suppressant and a mild to moderate analgesic. Codeine is commonly included in prescription cough syrups and pain relievers, usually combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.


Another opiate alkaloid originating from the opium poppy plant is thebaine. It has minimal analgesic properties, unlike morphine and codeine. However, it is a precursor in manufacturing other semi-synthetic opioids such as oxycodone & hydrocodone.

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Opioids vs Opiates: Which Is More Effective for Pain Relief?

The effectiveness of opioids vs. opiates for pain treatment is determined by various factors. This includes the type and severity of pain, individual patient characteristics, and the opioid or opiate used. While both opioids and opiates can relieve pain, several factors must be considered.

Opioids vs Opiates: Potency

Synthetic opioids have the potential to be more powerful than natural opiates. Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are far more potent than natural opiates such as morphine. The potency of synthetic opioids may be advantageous in severe pain cases for efficient pain control.

Opioids vs Opiates: Individual Response

Individuals can respond differently to pain medications. What works well for one individual may not work so well for another. It is necessary to customize the opioid or opiate choice to the patient's specific needs and individual reactions.

Opioids vs Opiates: Pain Type

Certain opioids or opiates may be more effective for certain types of pain. For example, the potency of synthetic opioids may be required for severe acute pain, such as post-surgical pain. Milder or chronic pain, on the other hand, may be efficiently treated with natural opiates.

Opioids vs Opiates: Side Effects

Sedation, constipation, nausea, and respiratory depression are all possible side effects of opioids and opiates. These side effects can differ based on the drug. When choosing the right opioid or opiate, balance pain relief and side effects.

Opioids vs Opiates: Expertise in Healthcare Providers

The healthcare provider's knowledge and ability to treat pain and prescribe opioids or opiates are essential in determining their effectiveness. Based on the individual patient's needs, an expert practitioner can guide the prescription selection and dose.

Opioids vs Opiates: How Risky Are They?

Both opioids and opiates can be very dangerous if taken incorrectly or abused. Opioids are especially potent and can cause respiratory depression, coma, overdose, and even death. As with any medication, it is important to use caution when taking them and follow your doctor's instructions closely.

However, when used correctly under the guidance of a medical professional, opiates and opioids can be extremely effective in relieving pain. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they are the most commonly prescribed medications for treating chronic pain.

Never mix opioids or opiates with other drugs, especially alcohol. Doing so can lead to serious and potentially fatal interactions. Also, if you are prescribed opioids or opiates, only take the amount your doctor has recommended.

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Opioids vs Opiates: Side Effects of Opioids and Opiates

Due to their comparable modes of action, opiates and opioids can cause similar side effects. Following are some of the most common side effects of opioids & opiates.

Opioids vs Opiates: Respiratory Depression

Opioids and opiates both have the potential to produce respiratory depression, which is characterized by slower or shallow breathing. It can cause respiratory arrest or even death in severe situations.

Opioids vs Opiates: Drowsiness and Sedation

Sedation and drowsiness can be caused by opioids and opiates, resulting in decreased awareness, reduced coordination, and slower reaction times.

Opioids vs Opiates: Vomiting and Nausea

In some people, opioids and opiates can produce nausea and vomiting. These side effects might range from minor discomfort to more serious symptoms.

Opioids vs Opiates: Constipation

Opioids and opiates typically cause constipation by decreasing gastrointestinal tract movement. This effect can be severe and lasting, requiring further action for relief.

Opioids vs Opiates: Skin Rash and Itching

Both opioids and opiates can cause itching, often accompanied by a skin rash. This can be irritating, but it is usually not cause for alarm unless it becomes severe or persistent.

Opioids vs Opiates: Hormonal Imbalances

Prolonged use of opioids and opiates can disturb the body's normal hormonal balance. This can have side effects, including lower testosterone levels in males and irregular menstrual cycles in women.

Opioids vs Opiates: Dependence and Addiction

Opioids and opiates have a high dependence and addiction potential. Continued usage can result in physical and psychological dependence, requiring careful supervision and even addiction treatment.

Opioids vs Opiates: What Are the Side Effects?

Following are some additional side effects of opioids and opiates.

Opioids vs Opiates: Dizziness

Opioids and opiates can cause dizziness or lightheadedness. Be cautious while getting up from a sitting or lying to avoid falls or accidents.

Opioids vs Opiates: Cognitive Impairment

While taking opioids or opiates, some people may have a cognitive impairment, such as trouble concentrating, disorientation, or memory issues.

Opioids vs Opiates: Reduced Libido and Sexual Dysfunction

Opioids and opiates can affect sexual function and lower libido. Reduced sexual desire, trouble obtaining or keeping an erection (in men), or diminished lubrication or orgasmic difficulties (in women) constitute common issues.

Opioids vs Opiates: Sweating

Excessive sweating, often known as opioid-induced hyperhidrosis, is a common side effect of opioids and opiates. This can be irritating and cause discomfort.

Opioids vs Opiates: Mood Swings

Opioids and opiates can occasionally produce mood changes ranging from euphoria to irritation or even dysphoria, feeling down or depressed.

Opioids vs Opiates: Reduced Respiratory Drive in Newborns

Opioids and opiates can pass the placenta and harm the developing fetus if consumed during pregnancy. This can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in newborns, characterized by withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Opioids vs Opiates: Risk of Overdose

Misuse or overuse of opioids and opiates can result in severe overdose. Overdose causes significant fatigue and respiratory depression and can lead to coma or death.

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Opioids Vs. Opiates: How Long Do These Drugs Stay In Your System?

Here is a general timeline for how long opioids may be detectable in different drug tests:

Opioids Vs. Opiates: Blood Test

Opioids are typically detectable in the blood for up to 24 hours after the last use.

Opioids Vs. Opiates: Urine Test

Opioids can be detected in urine for one to three days after use. Although some opioids may be detectable for more extended periods.

Opioids Vs. Opiates: Saliva Test/Mouth Swab

Opioids can be detected in saliva for one to four days after the last use.

Opioids Vs. Opiates: Hair Test

Opioids can be detected in hair follicles for approximately 90 days or more, depending on hair growth.

The link between opioid or opiate use and dependence is severe and complex. Following are some key points to understand.

Opioids vs Opiates: Increased Tolerance

The body can develop tolerance to opioids or opiates after repeated usage, requiring greater doses to achieve the same effects. This tolerance may increase the risk of dependency.

Opioids vs Opiates: Physical Dependency

Prolonged or excessive opioid or opiate use can result in physical dependence. The body adjusts to the presence of the drugs, and withdrawing or reducing the amount might cause withdrawal symptoms such as muscle pains, nausea, sleeplessness, and anxiety.

Opioids vs Opiates: Psychological Dependency

Opioid or opiate use can also lead to psychological dependence, in which a person has a strong desire or need for the substance. Psychological factors, such as the necessity of pain relief or the experience of emotional distress, can contribute to the development of dependence. 

Opioids vs Opiates: Addiction

Addiction develops from dependence and involves a compulsive pattern of substance seeking and use despite adverse effects. Addiction is a chronic brain condition marked by an inability to manage drug use and a strong desire to get and consume opioids or opiates.

Opioids vs Opiates: Risk Factors

A personal or family history of substance use problems, genetic vulnerability, underlying mental health conditions, and external factors can increase the chance of developing dependency or addiction.

Opioids vs Opiates: Treatment and Support

Overcoming opioid or opiate addiction requires expert treatment and support. All options include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), counseling, behavioral treatments, support groups, and comprehensive addiction treatment programs.

Opioids vs Opiates: Prevention and Education

Public education about the risks of opioid or opiate use, proper pain management procedures, and careful prescribing are essential in reducing the risk of dependence and addiction.

Opioids Vs. Opiates: They’re Both Addictive. Free Yourself at The Edge Treatment Center

Opioids and opiates have one thing in common. They're both addictive, potentially lethal, and capable of ruining lives very quickly. Whether you’re struggling with opiates or opioids, The Edge Treatment Center can help.

Our team of experienced counselors and medical professionals are committed to helping you find the best treatment plan for your individual needs. We understand that addiction is a complex problem and our clinicians provide personalized care to ensure the best outcomes for each client.

Opioids and opiates can deny you the life you truly deserve. Reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today to learn more about our evidence-based, effective treatment program for opioids and opiates.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Opioid Addiction

August 10, 2023