W hat's The Difference Between Opiates And Opioids?

Although the terms "opioids" and "opiates" are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Any chemical that acts on opioid receptors in the body is referred to as a "opioid."

12/27/20222 min read

Although the terms "opioids" and "opiates" are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Any chemical that acts on opioid receptors in the body is referred to as a "opioid." These can be either natural or man-made. The term "opiate" refers to a class of opioids originating from the poppy plant (also known as the opium plant). "Opioids" are classified as either "endogenous" (naturally produced by the body) or "exogenous" (administered or consumed).

Opioids produced by the body

Endogenous opioids are opioids produced by many organs within the human body, most notably the brain and pituitary gland. -endorphin, enkephalins, and dynorphins are the most common endogenous opioids. Endogenous opioids are in charge of regulating the brain's reward regions as well as its reaction to the stress hormone cortisol

Exogenous opioids are opioids that are produced outside of the body.

Opioids that are eaten or administered are known as exogenous opioids. "Opiates," "semi-synthetic" opioids, and "synthetic" opioids are among them. ‍

1. Opiates (narcotics)

Opiates are naturally occurring opioids generated from the poppy plant. Morphine and codeine are two of the most widely given opiates.

2. Opioids that are semi-synthetic

Semi-synthetic opioids are processed/manufactured versions of natural opiates that are several times stronger than natural opiates such as morphine. Hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin), Hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and Oxycodone are examples of semi-synthetic opioids (Percocet, OxyContin).

3. Synthetic Opioids are a type of synthetic opioid.

Synthetic opioids are opioids that are made wholly from chemicals. Synthetic opioids work similarly to other opioids, but because they are not produced from the poppy plant, they may be created more quickly and at cheaper costs than opioids obtained from the natural poppy. Methadone, Meperidine (Demerol), Tramadol (Ultram), Heroin, and Fentanyl are all common instances (Duragesic, Sublimaze)

Aside from natural opiates vs. semisynthetic vs. synthetic opioids, opioids are further classed according to how well they "switch on" opioid receptors in the brain:

Opioid agonists in their entirety

As the name implies, complete opioid agonists fully stimulate or "switch on" opioid receptors in the brain. As a result, they have a significant euphoric impact. At the same time, they come with the hazards of overdosing, respiratory suppression, and physical dependence that accompany with too much opioid receptor activation. Heroin, fentanyl, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and codeine are all complete opioid agonists.

Partially agonistic opioids

Opioid receptors are only partially stimulated by partial opioid agonists. Even at large doses, they are unable to fully excite opioid receptors, making them safer to use with a low risk of misuse. The most well-known partial agonist is buprenorphine. Buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone) is a highly successful opioid addiction treatment. Because buprenorphine is a partial opioid, it lessens opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms while avoiding the euphoric effects associated with full opioids. It also has a lower risk of overdose and dependency/addiction than full opioids

Anti-opioid drugs

Opioid antagonists attach to opioid receptors in the brain, preventing opioid agonists from binding. The most prevalent and well-known opioid antagonist is Naloxone (Narcan). Naloxone binds to opioid receptors more tightly than opioid agonists, reducing overdose in patients. This is how Naloxone (also known as "Narcan") works as a reversal agent for opioid overdose sufferers.

Do you or someone you know suffers from an opioid use disorder?

Opioid use disorder is treatable, thanks to recent advances in treatment, particularly medication-assisted treatment.