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Difference Between Opiates and Opioids

Opium poppy plants contain opiates, or naturally occurring psychoactive compounds that include thebaine, codeine and morphine. A powerful narcotic analgesic with highly addictive properties, any opiate impacts four major brain regions: the cortex, midbrain, cerebellum and brainstem.

Within the midbrain lie several brain components responsible for controlling emotions, pain sensations and body temperature. However, it is the cerebellum that reacts most negatively to opiates by instigating the process of addiction. Thousands of opioid receptors blanket the cerebellum that are specifically designed to accept and utilize the strong pain-relieving, tranquilizing capacity of all opiates.

Opiates are compounds found in the opium poppy plant. Only codeine, thebaine and morphine are considered opiates. The term opioid is a catch-all word describing all drugs exerting narcotic analgesic effects. In addition, opioids are also semi-synthetic substances made using one or more true opiates.

  • Oxycodone, heroin and hydrocodone are opioids, not opiates. Completely synthetic opioids that do not contain natural opiates include methadone, fentanyl and buprenorphine.

All opiates and opioids have been determined by the U.S. FDA to be substances of “high abuse potential”. They are listed under the substance control schedules found in the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

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