True Recovery

Opiate? Opioid? What’s the Difference?

With the ongoing opioid epidemic continuing to plague this country, the more information one has the better.

A question that commonly comes up deals with the different terminology used for opioids, opiates, and their derivatives. So what is the difference between opiates and opioids and what are examples of each?

Here we break down these terms and provide examples of them.


The term opiates refer to natural alkaloids that occur in plants, and thus do not involve any Whats the difference between the two drugs?sort of man-made alterations. The majority of these derive from the plant known as Opium Poppy.

The analgesic effects of opium poppy have been known to man since ancient times, and continue to be used in several common medications.

Examples of Opiates

Semi-synthetic Opioids

The term Semi-synthetic opioid refers to compounds that start off as opiates, but are altered chemically to produce a new compound. In the 19th century, morphine was isolated from raw opium and recognized as the primary active ingredient.

Once this occurred, chemists began tinkering with morphine (and other opiates) to create new novel opioids. Semi-synthetic opioids represent the large majority of pharmaceutical painkillers used today.

Examples of Semi-synthetic Opioids

  • Heroin
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Buprenorphine

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Fully-synthetic Opioids

In 1939, a chemist working on creating new medications accidentally synthesized the first fully-synthetic opioid. These opioids that are not created using an opiate precursor, and which often have structures much different than those typically found in opiates.

These opioids are used both medically and illicitly.

Examples of Fully-synthetic Opioids

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.

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