What is the Difference Between an Opioid and an Opiate? 

What is the Difference Between an Opioid and an Opiate? 

Sometimes words sound alike and may be confused with something else. Opioids and opiates suffer this exact fate. Of the many words out there surrounding addiction and recovery, these words get a lot of interplay because they sound similar. They are different, mainly because there is a fundamental difference between the two. It helps to learn the difference and how to learn more about opioids and opiates.

How They Differ

Opiates are derived from the poppy plant. The seeds on a hamburger bun or that go into poppyseed bread are not the same as the drug, but it comes from the same seed. The compounds in the plant may alter the way the brain processes pain, which provides relief to people in pain. It can create a feeling of ‘being high’ that may make people feel intrigued about consuming opiates. These are some types of opiates to keep in mind:

  • Heroin
  • Thebaine
  • Morphine
  • Opium
  • Codeine


Opioids were once classified as ‘synthetic opiates only (created to emulate opium). Opioids can be used to describe natural and synthetic versions. Opioids may be viewed as prescription medicines like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. There is a differenc between the two, chemically speaking. The most common thing between the two is that either one can become addictive. 

Abuse Potential

These two can become addictive over time. If they are abused or taken consistently for long periods of time, the brain builds a tolerance causing an individual to crave more for the same impact. To avoid dependence issues, it is important to follow the doctor’s instructions if you are prescribed a pain pill and to notify them if you do not feel comfortable taking more of the drug. If you are concerned you may have an addiction to opiates or opioids, it is best to take an assessment for better insight. Lots of options exist, and it is never too late for help. Getting help for addiction is better than not getting any help at all or letting it get out of control more than it is right now. It takes strength and courage to ask for help. Don’t hesitate to reach out and seek support.

The Palmetto Center believes you have the power to overcome adverse circumstances to achieve your recovery goals. We are here for you every step of the way. If you are an executive or professional, we have a special program for you. Call us to find out more: 866-848-3001.