The current drug overdose epidemic that is plaguing America has brought addiction front and center to everyone. Of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the United States in 2016, nearly two-thirds were due to heroin and prescription painkillers. Opiates and opioids have been a main topic of conversation for lawmakers, health professionals, and citizens alike. While these drugs are often have been mentioned interchangeably in name and are similar in its effects, there are differences between the two.

The following article will highlight and similarities and differences between opiates and opioids. No matter the drug and its makeup, these substances are highly potent, dangerous and potentially life-threatening. If you or a loved one are addicted to opiates and/or opioids, you must seek professional help today. Call Pinnacle Recovery toll-free right now to get the tools and support you need to break the vicious cycle of opiate and opioid addiction.

What are Opiates and Opioids?

To understand these substances, you must first understand the basic differences between an opiate and an opioid. While both substances are similar in its effects on the body and mind, they are different regarding their composition.


Opiates are potent depressants that act on the central nervous system. Opiates derive from the seed pods of the poppy plant. Opium—the main drug derived from the plant—has been used for thousands of years as a pain reliever and analgesic. Other opiates that are derived from the poppy plant include heroin, morphine, and codeine. In addition to its pain-relieving qualities, opiates are often used for the euphoria it produces.

Opiates work on specific areas of the brain:

  • The limbic system- which is the area of the brain which regulates emotions.
  • The brain stem- the part of the brain which regulates the body’s automatic functions such as breathing
  • The spinal cord- the part of the body which is responsible for transmitting sensations throughout the body.


Opioids are like opiates in the fact they act on a person’s central nervous system. While opiates derive naturally from the poppy plant, opioids are synthetic and created in a laboratory. Opioid medications are used to help people deal with moderate to severe pain as the result of injuries or surgeries. As with opiates, prescription opioids tightly bind with the brain’s opioid receptors. These receptors help control pain, pleasure and help control essential body functions such as heart rate and respiration.

Common examples of opioid medications include Vicodin, fentanyl, Percocet, OxyContin, and Demerol. These medications can be very effective when utilized in conjunction with a comprehensive pain management program. However, these medications should only be used as a short-term solution. Because of their high addiction potential, opioid medications need to be administered and closely monitored by experienced medical personnel. Much like opiates, those who become addicted to opioids do so to experience the euphoria these substances produce.

man using opiates

Symptoms Produced by Opiates and Opioids

Despite their differing composition, both opiates and opioids produce similar symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped by its physical, psychological and behavioral effects

Physical Symptoms:

  • Hypersensitivity to the environment
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Increased heart rate and high blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased agitation and irritation

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Increased general anxiety and increased anxiety attacks
  • Euphoria
  • Increased risk of developing psychosis
  • Depression—especially when opiates and opioids are absent from the body
  • Lowered motivation

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Increasing isolation and withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss in interest in activities and hobbies
  • Stealing from family or other loved ones
  • Rationalizing opiate and opioid dependence and abuse
  • Deflecting blame towards others as the reason for the dependence and abuse of opiates and/or opioids.

Getting Help for Opiate and Opioid Abuse

Opiates and opioids are extremely powerful drugs and require professional intervention from experienced addiction treatment staff. If you or a loved one are addicted to these dangerous substances, you may be tempted to try and quit on your own or try methods of self-detoxification. While appealing, these methods are highly discouraged and can potentially be life-threatening.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with opiates and opioids can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. If you or a loved one also suffers from and underlying medical condition, these withdrawal symptoms can be very dangerous to your health without proper medical supervision. This is also true if you are also abusing other substances. To fully recover and have the best possible outcome, it is important that you undergo proper drug treatment.

Effective Drug Treatment for Opiate and Opioid Abuse

When you are looking for treatment for opiate and opioid abuse, the program you are looking at must be comprehensive. Treatment is not a “one size fits all” proposition. You have unique needs, and reputable treatment centers feature programs that will address those needs.

The first and most important feature of opiate and opioid treatment is medical detoxification. With medications and other interventions, you will be better able to tolerate the withdrawal process. As you are weaning off opiates and opioids, treatment staff will perform a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose any underlying mental or physical conditions that may complicate your recovery. Once you are physically and psychologically stable, you can transition to intensive treatment.

In treatment, staff will utilize therapy, 12-step support and other traditional and holistic treatment options to help you address the roots of your addiction. Your program is highly individualized and can be modified as your needs change. Once you successfully complete treatment, you are highly encouraged to participate in intensive outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment will allow you to work on the life and coping skills needed to successfully maintain your recovery while attending to your work and family obligations.

Finding quality drug treatment can be difficult. Fortunately, you can find the programs and support you need to break the cycle of addiction at Pinnacle Recovery. With one phone call, our experienced treatment team can create a treatment plan that will empower you to become healthy, happy and sober. Call us today and start on the road to recovery.