Opioid vs. Opiate: Is There a Difference?

a person talks with a therapist about opioid vs opiate

With the opioid epidemic continuing to rage across the country, many people may still be confused about what opioid medications are. Additionally, some medications may be classified as opiates. Are these medications the same? What are the differences? It is important to learn about these addictive prescription drugs if you or a loved one are showing signs of addiction.

At Northpoint Seattle, our opioid addiction treatment program helps people who are struggling to quit opioid or opiate medications. Our team of medical professionals and recovery specialists know how important it is to provide compassionate, supportive care to those on the road to recovery. Finding support in sobriety can be critical for your success. Don’t delay your journey to a happier, healthier future. Call 425.414.3530 today to get started.

Opioids vs. Opiates: What’s the Difference?


“Opioid” vs “Opiate” – Why the Confusion?


Though many people often use the terms opioids and opiates interchangeably, there are some notable differences between the two classes of drugs. Opioids are a broader class, often encompassing all natural and synthetic opioid drugs. Opiates, on the other hand, typically only describe medications directly made from the opium poppy.


Examples of Opiates

What Is an Opiate?

Opiates are drugs that come from the opium poppy, a flower with a natural substance called alkaloids. These alkaloids can be extracted to create medications like codeine and morphine. Opium was once commonly used as a pain reliever and is still used in some parts of the world today.

Common Opiates

Some of the most common opiates include:

  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Heroin

What Is an Opioid?

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes all opiates and synthetic drugs with opioid effects. These drugs bind to opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system. Opioids can relieve pain, but they also have the potential to produce a feeling of euphoria.

This euphoria is one of the main reasons opioids are so addictive. People who use opioids regularly can develop a tolerance to the drug. This tolerance means they must take higher doses to get the same euphoric effects. Over time, this can lead to physical and psychological dependence on opioids.

Common Opioids

Some of the most common opioids include:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Fentanyl

Comparing Opioid vs. Opiate Medications

Two Sides of the Same Coin

While there are some distinctions between opioids and opiates, they are similar in many ways. Both classes of drugs:

  • Are derived from the opium poppy
  • Can be used to relieve pain
  • Have a high potential for abuse and addiction
  • Have similar side effects


How Are Opiates and Opioids Alike?

The Differences Between Opioid and Opiate Prescriptions

Though they are similar, some key differences exist in how doctors prescribe opioids and opiates. Opioids are typically only prescribed for pain that is severe enough to require around-the-clock relief. Opiates, on the other hand, may be prescribed for moderate pain that can find relief with less potent medications.

Opioid prescriptions usually come with a higher risk of abuse and addiction. For this reason, opioids are typically only prescribed when other medications haven’t worked. When prescribed, it is important to follow the dosing instructions closely.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid or opiate addiction, help is available.


Why Are Opiates and Opioids So Addictive?

Opioid Addiction Treatment at Northpoint Seattle

Northpoint Seattle’s opioid addiction treatment program is here to help you or your loved one on the road to recovery. Our team of compassionate, experienced professionals will work with you to create a personalized outpatient treatment plan. This plan may include a combination of medical intervention, therapy, and aftercare planning.

If you’re ready to take the first step, call us today at 425.414.3530. We are here to help you on your journey to a happier, healthier life.

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Opioid vs Opiate Is There a Difference