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Opiates are medications that come from the plant opium and the opium poppy. Most opioids used nowadays are synthetic, but there are still opiate medications that come from the original plant. They are excellent medications for legitimate medical reasons such as pain control. They are sometimes used for other medical reasons including cough. There are some opiates in cough medicines, chronic diarrhea medication, what have you. But mainly they’re used for pain control. The euphoric effects that they have on certain parts of the brain make them attractive for recreational use. Unfortunately, it’s easy to become dependent on them. It’s easy for them to become habit-forming.
So when people come in having started to overtake their medications – in other words, taking more than their prescription recommends – or to seek opiates off of the street, then they have to be brought down slowly from high doses of opiates to taper off rather than stopping them abruptly. That is, in fact, why they continue to be used to avoid withdrawal symptoms that can occur if they were to stop abruptly. But mainly they’re legitimate chemicals that we use in medicine for treatment of discomfort and they can cause problems in that people will overtake them and become physiologically dependent on them.
What is an opiate and how is that different from an opioid
These terms are frequently used interchangeably, along with narcotics, but there is a technical difference between the two.
Opiate – Opiates are natural substances that come from opium. Opium itself can be extracted from the opium poppy. The chemicals within opium can be further refined into other compounds such as morphine and codeine.
Opioid – Chemicals that work by binding to the same receptors as opiates, but are not naturally derived, are known as opioids. Opioids can be 100% synthetic and manufactured, or they can be semi-synthetic opioids which are created by chemical modifications to natural opiates. Some examples of synthetic opioids are methadone and fentanyl. Examples of semi-synthetic opioids include hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Opioids are often prescription medications but not all are available legally. For example, heroin is not legally available for prescription use.
Unfortunately, it is easy to become dependent or addicted to opiates. Recovering from an opiate addiction presents the added challenge of healing the underlying cause for the initial use.
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