What Is an Opiate?

An opiate is a type of drug that was originally made from the poppy plant. Opiates are an alkaloid that are derived from the poppy plant, and have been used for thousands of years for medicinal and recreational purposes. Opiates are commonly prescribed for pain relief and include medications such as morphine, codeine, and fentanyl. There are also illegal derivatives of opiates that include both heroin and opium.

While prescription opiates like morphine and codeine have shown to provide excellent relief of pain, they are also commonly abused. Opiates hold a high potential for dependency, with both moderate and long-term use putting a person at risk for addiction. Prescription opiate abusers are also at increased risk of abusing heroin and facing heroin addiction than non-opiate users, as heroin offers similar effects at a fraction of the cost.

What Are the Types of Opiates?

Opiates are categorised into three different classifications. These include

  • Natural opiates: Natural opiates come directly from the poppy plant in its natural form. Natural opiates include opium and morphine.
  • Synthetic opiates: Synthetic opiates are man-made and are commonly used for the treatment of opiate addiction as well as pain management. Common synthetic opiates include methadone, buprenorphine, fentanyl, and naltrexone.
  • Semisynthetic opiates: Semisynthetic opiates are those that man-made, but also a derivative of natural opiates. Semisynthetic opiates are considered “half-natural” and include substances such as heroin and oxycontin.

What Is the Difference Between Opiates and Opioids?

The word opiate and opioid are often used interchangeably. Both are used for the management of pain and have very similar effects. Opiates however, are considered a natural pain remedy as they are directly derived from the opium plant. Opioids are considered synthetic pain medications that are made to act in a similar way as opioids.

Both modify the way pain is perceived and do not actually make the pain go away. Opiates and opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain. The nerve cells then send messages to the brain that do not accurately represent the actual pain a person is experiencing.

Side Effects

Opiates work to control pain. Short-term side effects a person may experience include: pain relief, drowsiness, sedation, and/or euphoria. Opiate use also instigates the release of dopamine in the brain, which can significantly increase feelings of pleasure, as well as strengthen the desire to continue using them.

Side Effects of Opiate Abuse

While the side effects of abuse vary amongst individuals, some side effects of opiate abuse can include:

  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia

Long-term Side Effects of Opiate Use

  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Liver damage
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Developed tolerance
  • Dependency
  • Addiction

Opiate Addiction

Opiates contain extreme potential for addiction. Because of the pleasurable effects and changes in the brain, opiates contain the potential to cause measurable symptoms of addiction after only three days of use.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

One of the main indications of opiate addiction is the continued use of them even after a person has experienced negative reprecussions from their use.

Common signs of opiate addiction that are similar to signs of addiction for other substances and can include:

  • Cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Problems in relationships
  • Troubles with finances

Physical signs of opiate addiction can include:

  • Nodding off
  • Increased feelings of euphoria
  • Noticeable drowsiness or sedation
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Confusion
  • Slowed breathing

Symptoms of opiate addition withdrawal can include:

  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhoea

Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Treatment for opiate addiction typically involves an effective rehab programme that takes a multidisciplinary approach to addiction healing. An effective opiate treatment programme will assist a person through each stage of addiction treatment from the first stages of withdrawal to the final stages of recovery.

Treatment for opiate addiction typically involves outpatient or residential rehab, which is sometimes combined with the use of medication. Other treatments are also used in combination with rehab and/or medication, as well.

Common medications used to treat opiate addiction include: methadone, naltrexone, buprenorphine, short-acting benzodiazepines, and antidepressants.

Psychotherapy, including both individual and group talk therapy as well as cognitive behavioural therapy has shown to be effective in overcoming opiate addiction. Other treatments can also include various addiction support groups such as 12-step programmes and SMART recovery.

Opiate Statistics

  • According to reports by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there has been a global increase in the production, transportation, and consumption of opiates, namely heroin.
  • The world production of heroin has more than doubled or tripled since 1985.
  • It is estimated that 13.5 million people take opiates or opioids worldwide.
  • More than 9.2 million people worldwide use heroin.
  • It is estimated that opiates could kill more than half a million Americans in the next decade.

External Links

Synthetic Opiates List – Drugs that Derive from Opium, Opium.org

How to treat opiate addiction,AddictionBlog

Opiates, World Health Organization

STAT forecast: Opioids could kill nearly 500,000 Americans in the next decade, Max Blau, STAT News

close help
Who am I calling?

Calls will be answered by admissions at UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step

0808 278 9885