In 2014, nearly 2 million people abused or were dependent on opioids, and it’s become a nationwide crisis.
You’ve probably heard the words opiate and opioid being thrown around in light of this epidemic. While these terms sound and look similar, there is a subtle yet significant distinction between the two.
Both terms refer to substances that activate the center of the brain responsible for releasing endorphins, our feel-good hormones. Opiate refers to a substance that is naturally derived from the seeds of the opium poppy. Opioid is a broad term that includes substances that are both natural and synthetic. Synthetic opioids are meant to mimic the effect that the natural chemical has on the brain and body.
So, all opiates are opioids, but not all opioids are opiates.
Some examples of commonly misused opiates include heroin, morphine, and codeine, while commonly misused synthetic opioids include fentanyl and oxycodone.
Opiates are intended to be used for killing or reducing pain and are often abused because they cause users to feel relaxed and euphoric.
Common Signs of Opiate Abuse
People addicted to or abusing opiates may begin to change their behavior or show physical signs, such as:
- A significant loss of weight caused by a change in appetite
- Disregard for personal hygiene
- An odd sleep schedule and/or lethargy
- Isolating themselves from friends and family
- Losing interest in activities they used to enjoy
Prescription opiates like morphine and codeine are usually taken orally, so apart from medication bottles, there are few paraphernalia items to give the user away.
However, heroin users often have an entire paraphernalia toolkit. The specific items will vary depending on the method of administration, but common paraphernalia include spoons, needles, tin foil, lighters, straws, and more.
What Are the Risks of An Opiate Addiction?
Despite the fact that they’re derived from a natural source, misusing opiates is incredibly dangerous. When these drugs are used on a regular basis, the brain quickly builds up a tolerance to the euphoric effects.
The body, however, doesn’t build a tolerance to the physical effects as fast as the mind does, so a user taking larger doses trying to get a higher high can die from respiratory or cardiac arrest.
When we start looking at the broader category of opioids, some, like fentanyl, are so potent that just a small amount can cause an accidental overdose within seconds.
An addiction to opiates or opioids can be overcome with the right rehabilitation plan. 12-step programs are a great option for receiving ongoing support from others who have gone through the same struggle.