What is the Difference Between Opiates and Opioids?
2017 has been the year of the opiate epidemic, and rarely a day goes by without news stories chronicling the impact the drug has had on families, communities, and our healthcare system. In 2016, opioid overdoses outpaced vehicle fatalities and gun homicides as the leading cause of death in the US for adults under the age of 50 (nytimes.com). We often see the words opioids and opiates are used interchangeably, so what’s the difference?
Opiates and opiate related drugs are organic chemical compounds that have been used medicinally and recreationally for thousands of years. Originally derived from Mediterranean and Arab regions, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) was cultivated and processed by ancient civilizations to obtain potent chemical extracts. When consumed, these processed extracts bind to the brain’s opioid receptors, eliminating physical pain and promoting a euphoric experience. Some commonly known opiates include:
Today you would be shocked if a doctor prescribed you heroin after surgery, but you would likely be prescribed a chemical cousin of heroin: an opioid. Opioids refer to a classification of drugs, both organic and synthetic, that emulate the effects of opium. These drugs were initially intended for end of life treatment, cancer, and post-surgical treatment. However in the 1990s, the drug became more widely available after a successful marketing campaign that liberalized prescribing while at the same time discounted the drug’s potential for developing an addictive disorder. Some of the most widely known and available opioids include:
- Vicodin (Hydrocodone)
Risks Associated With Opioids and Opiates
The risks associated with opiates and opioids are inheritly the same. Both classifications of drugs are habit forming and can lead to addictive disorders, overdose, and even death.
While opioid manufacturing is highly regulated with standardized levels of potency in place, there is still a heightened risk for overdose and abuse. If opioid medication is taken in excess, with alcohol or in combination with other drugs (including benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Ativan, or Valium), there is an increased risk of respiratory depression that may lead to death.
When opioids are exposed to the brain for an extended period of time, something interesting happens. The brain’s chemical balance begins to change resulting in what is now called opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). OIH has the potential to lower one’s pain threshold, making discomforting actions seem excruciatingly painful. It can also lead to psychological disorders including anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation.
Managing Chronic Pain without Opioid Reliance
Here at A Healing Place – The Estates, we understand the paradoxical nature of contemporary approaches to chronic pain management. We hope to be a part of the movement shifting away from society’s reliance on opioid medications to manage chronic pain. One of the biggest hurtles that still needs to be addressed is patient access to non-pharmacological interventions for chronic pain management. Furthermore, addressing the psychological suffering associated with chronic pain is lacking, or in many cases nonexistent. This is a crucial component of healthy pain management as anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, isolation, and trauma are all factors that influence the interpretation of pain.
We are proud to offer integrated concurrent treatment that addresses the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual suffering that often accompanies chronic pain. Our proprietary Addiction Free Pain Management® PLUS System, developed by our Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Stephen Grinstead, serves as the foundation of our program. This System offers the education and tools necessary to better understand and respond to one’s pain. Furthermore, it reinforces the shift from passive to active chronic pain management through holistic and non-pharmacological modalities.
To learn more about how our triple diagnosis treatment program can benefit you or a loved one, please visit our programs page. You can also always speak with one of our compassionate admissions specialist to see if we are the most appropriate program to address your needs. Give us a call at 844-388-4100 for a free and confidential assessment.