Opiate Addiction

Opiates originate from natural plant matter such as poppy sap and fibers. Opiates are considered narcotics. If someone has become addicted to or dependent on one opiate in particular, whether it’s medically prescribed or illegally obtained, they may find switching to another opioid can help maintain their dependency. Most people find it very challenging to stop using opioids after regular used without an opiate detox.

The Difference Between Opiates and Opioids 

The main difference between opiates and opioids is how they are made. Opiates derive from natural plant matter, while opioids are man-made, synthetic drugs. More and more, the language is changing around opiates and opioids. Today, most people, including the media, journalists, and politicians, will use the term “opioid” to refer to both opioids and opiates. 

While both opioids and opiates are used medically, they can also be used illicitly by people with substance use disorders. 

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are chemical compounds extracted from poppy sap and fibers. Examples of opiates include: 

  • opium 
  • morphine
  • codeine
  • heroin 

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a broad group of medications which includes opiates and opiate-like drugs made in a lab or “synthesized.” There are a few opioids that are considered partially synthesized, like hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (Oxycontin). 

Overall, the pharmaceutical industry has created more than 500 different opioids. Some are widely known, and others are not. 

How Opiate Addiction Occurs 

Opiate use, even for a short term, can lead to addiction and often an overdose. Anyone taking opiates is at risk of developing an addiction. However, it’s virtually impossible to predict who’s vulnerable to potential dependence on the drug. It’s vital to note opiates are most addictive when used in a method different than what’s been prescribed. This can include crushing a pill so that it can be injected or snorted. Suppose someone injects or snorts an opiate designed as a long- or extended-acting formula. In that case, they increase their risk of overdose by rapidly delivering all the medicine to their body at once. 

There are numerous opiate addiction risk factors, including: 

  • unemployment and impoverishment 
  • family history of substance abuse 
  • personal history of substance abuse 
  • young age 
  • criminal history 
  • regular contact with high-risk individuals 
  • mental disorders
  • heavy tobacco use 
  • history of severe depression or anxiety 
  • stressful circumstances 
  • prior drug or alcohol rehab 

Opiate Addiction Risk Factors In Women 

Women, in particular, tend to have a greater risk of opiate addiction as they are more likely to experience chronic pain than men. Comparatively, women are also more likely to receive an opiate prescription than men. Some studies even suggest that women are more likely to develop a dependency on pain relievers due to differences in their biology. 

Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Abuse 

If you suspect an opiate addiction in yourself or someone you love, here are some signs and symptoms to watch for. 

Physical signs of opiate abuse: 

  • extreme drowsiness
  • mental fog
  • nausea
  • constipation 

Mental symptoms of opiate abuse:

  • losing interest in things that once excited you 
  • no longer maintaining work or school responsibilities 
  • finding yourself fixated on when you can take more opiates 
  • becoming obsessed with getting more drugs 

Signs of an opiate overdose:

  • ashen face
  • clammy skin 
  • fingernails or lips turn blue 
  • vomiting or gurgling sounds 
  • cannot be woken up 
  • unable to speak 
  • slowed breathing 
  • heartbeat slows or stops 

Opiate Addiction Treatment 

Luckily, many treatment types are available to help someone overcome opiate addiction. Opiate addiction can cause some severe withdrawal symptoms, which are best managed under the supervised care of a medical detox team. 

After completing a medical detox, someone with opiate addiction will need further treatment, such as an inpatient treatment program. Learn more about your treatment options by contacting our treatment helpline today. Or reach out to us online.


Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission: Oregon State – Opiates or Opioids — What’s the difference?

Mayo Clinic – How opioid addiction occurs

MedlinePlus – Opioid Misuse and Addiction