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What Is the Difference Between an Opioid and Opiate?

Home » Addiction Recovery » What Is the Difference Between an Opioid and Opiate?
clinician holding up pill bottle to illustrate the difference between opioid vs opiate

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Opioids and opiates are commonly confused. They are both part of the drug crisis responsible for the high rate of addiction and overdose in our country today. The drugs can be prescribed for medical uses to treat pain but are also illegally obtained through prescription shopping or as street drugs.

Opioids and opiates are not new; they have a long history of use. However, the rise in use has been seen in recent years, which is what has caused what is known as the opioid epidemic. If you or someone you know are using either drug, it is essential to understand the dangers they present. Awareness is critical, as is getting professional help if you have become addicted.   

The difference between opioids and opiates can be difficult to understand. Contact Virtue Recovery Las Vegas for more information on opioid and opiate abuse treatment. Call 866.520.2861 or reach out to us online. 

Opiates vs. Opioids 

First, let’s look at how opiates and opioids are similar. These drugs are derived from the poppy plant, or Papaver somniferum. The poppy plant produces opium, a powerful narcotic found in opiates and opioids. Both drugs work by activating opioid receptors in the brain and directly affecting the central nervous system.  

Although they have similarities, there are also distinct differences in how they are made, what they are made of, and how they affect the user. 


All opiates are considered opioids. Opiates come from the sap of the poppy plant. Common opiates include morphine, codeine, and heroin. They are prescribed for pain management and used recreationally for the euphoria they create.  


Opioids are the naturally occurring opium from the poppy plant and active ingredients created in a lab, like oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone. Once the drug binds to specific receptors in the brain, sedation, relief from pain, or feelings of euphoria occur. 

Common Side Effects of Opioid and Opiate Abuse 

Abuse of opioids and opiates can have the same kinds of side effects. These include: 

  • Intense cravings when not using the drug 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Constipation 
  • Severe lethargy 
  • A regular state of confusion 
  • Respiratory depression 
  • Itching 
  • Body sweats 

The range and severity of effects these drugs produce can vary, depending on the drug. In general, the effects of taking opiates tend to be milder. Synthetic opioids can be more potent because of the added chemical substances in their makeup. In either case, the risk of overdose and death exists. 

What to Expect in Opioid or Opiate Treatment 

Trying to quit using an opioid or opiate alone is very difficult. Most people can only go a day or two before the cravings and other withdrawal symptoms become so intense that they start using the drug again. 

An opiate or opioid addiction treatment program at an accredited drug treatment facility is the best course of action to treat this kind of addiction successfully. 

An opiate or opioid addiction treatment program can include: 

  • A medically supervised detox 
  • Behavioral therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Individual, group, and family therapy 
  • Experiential therapies like yoga, music, and equine therapy 

Accessing professional treatment is the best way to overcome opioid and opiate addiction. 

Call on Virtue Recovery Las Vegas – Substance Use Disorder for Opioid and Opiate Abuse Treatment 

Opiates and opioids share some things in common but also have distinct differences. Abuse of any drug in these categories can lead to the need for treatment at an addiction treatment facility. Understanding the differences between opiates and opioids can help address addiction’s specific issues and provide the best treatment possible. 

Contact the caring and compassionate team at Virtue Recovery Las Vegas today at 866.520.2861 or online to learn more about treatment options for an addiction to opiates or opioids. 

author avatar
Gigi Price LMSW, LCDC Clinical Director
Gigi Price holds licenses as a Master Social Worker and Clinical Drug Counselor. She completed her master's degree in Social Work at Texas State University. Over the last decade, Gigi has been dedicated to utilizing evidence-based practices to enhance patient care and treatment planning, resulting in positive, long-term outcomes for patients and their families. Her passion lies in creating a treatment environment where professionals collaborate to bring about positive change and provide a safe, trustworthy therapeutic experience. Patients can be confident in receiving top-quality care under her leadership. In her role as the Clinical Director of Virtue Recovery Houston, Gigi conducted research to identify the most effective approaches for treating patients with acute mental health diagnoses, PTSD, and Substance Use Disorder. She then assembled a team of skilled clinicians who could offer various therapeutic modalities, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Somatic Exposure, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Gigi takes pride in overseeing the development and implementation of Virtue Houston's Treatment Program, which includes two specialized therapeutic curricula tailored to the unique needs of individuals struggling with mental health issues, addiction, and PTSD.

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