Despite the media coverage of the opioid epidemic, America has found itself fighting during the past few decades. Despite this focus on addressing the problem, many people still ask what is an opioid vs. opiate? Are opioids different from opiates?
“Opioids” is the overarching name for any substance that attaches itself to opioid receptors in your brain and helps with things like pain. Opiates do the same thing, but there is a significant difference that must be considered before simply calling these two things the same thing. An easy way to remember the difference is that all opiates are opioids, but not all opioids are opiates.
The Opioid Epidemic in Massachusetts
Despite the differences between opioids and opiates, they have both caused a lot of heartbreak and pain in Massachusetts. We often hear about the opioid epidemic and not about the opiate epidemic. Why is this? Most people consider opiates a subgroup that falls under the umbrella of opioids as a whole. So to avoid confusion, opiates are included in opioid overdose and addiction statistics. According to the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healy, in 2020, more than 2,000 Massachusetts citizens lost their lives to overdose. According to the Massachusetts Department of Health, another 1,000 Bay Staters died of opioid overdose in the first half of 2021.
What Is an Opioid?
As stated briefly earlier, opioids are the substances that attach to opioid receptors in the brain and positively affect signals your body and brain send between each other concerning pain and pleasure. Opioids come in three key categories:
This class of drugs includes many substances you hear and read about frequently – drugs like heroin, oxycodone (brand name OxyContin), codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone (brand names Zohydro ER or, when mixed with acetaminophen, Vicodin) are all opioids. These substances range from illegal drugs to medications frequently prescribed by doctors across the country.
It can be hard to fully grasp the wide range of drugs that are all opioids. Synthetic opioids are entirely lab-manufactured. While opioids can be created naturally from plants such as the opium poppy, synthetic opioids are produced without the use of plants at all. These lab-created synthetic opioids include commonly prescribed drugs like Tramadol and even one of the drugs utilized in medication-assisted treatment, methadone. Fentanyl is also considered a synthetic opioid. It has very limited medical applications for extreme pain and is consumed considerably more frequently in recreational/illegal forms.
Semi-synthetic opioids are drugs that are partially made from natural plants and partially manufactured. After extracting the active ingredient from the plants, there is lab manipulation to create a drug that has the desired effects. Hydrocodone, oxycodone, and heroin are all examples of semi-synthetic opioids.
What Are Opiates?
Opiates, as we mentioned earlier, are a subgroup of the overarching drug class known as opioids. While synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids are at least partially manufactured, opiates are natural and created (extracted) from poppy plants. Opium, morphine, and codeine are all commonly known opiates that are prescribed by doctors throughout the world. All of these drugs come from the poppy plant. The poppy is a flower grown in many areas of the world for three reasons.
- Eating (poppy seeds)
- Producing Opium for pharmaceutical use
- Producing alkaloids, which are also used pharmaceutically
Consuming Opioids Safely
Opioids, while given nearly entirely bad publicity due to the commonality of misuse and addiction, can and will genuinely help thousands (if not millions) of people in any given year. Prescription opioids are generally safe when taken for a short time and as directed by a doctor. In fact, during 2020 in Massachusetts, there were 33 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 citizens. The vast majority of these were taken safely. Again, opioids can be, and often are, misused. Due to the “feel-good” and pain-blocking effects of opioids, they can be taken recreationally or excessively. It is important to remember that all opioids have addiction potential, regardless of why they’re taken. If you feel you may be turning a corner into dependency or addiction to opioids, it may be time to reach out for help.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
As we continue to battle through the opioid epidemic together in Massachusetts, the need for treatment continues to grow. When starting treatment for opiate addiction or addiction to any opioid, it’s important to begin with inpatient detoxification. As you battle back against your dependency and addiction, your mind and body go into an intense period of panic. During this time, it is normal to have general discomfort and intense cravings to return to misusing the opioid that first landed you in detox. It is important to have a dedicated and quick medical team around you to assist with any needs throughout this process, which lasts upwards of a week. At Vertava Health Massachusetts, we can help make the detox process as comfortable as possible.
Following detox, outpatient and inpatient programs are both acceptable forms of treatment to transition into depending on the length of addiction and other factors like family and work life. In outpatient treatment, it is key to find a program within driving distance to provide you with good results without being too much of a time commitment. In inpatient rehab, you must be prepared to completely step away from the responsibilities of work and social life to focus on the likely month-long stay inside the facility. During this time, it is still best to have contact with your family and friends if possible. Treatment should include a mix of evidence-based treatments like one-on-one counseling and group therapy. The best programs will also include a mix of alternative therapies like exercise and life skills classes.
Call Vertava Health – Massachusetts Today
At Vertava Health Massachusetts, we work every day to provide you with the knowledge and power to take with you into your best future. We also work to help those battling addiction and mental health disorders at our facility in Cummington.
If you or a loved one is battling an opioid use disorder, call us at 888.451.5895. We can provide a pathway to a happier and healthier future.