What’s in a name? Opiates vs. opioids

Is it an opiate or an opioid?

Until recently the catch-all term was opiate ... then opiate and opioid became differentiated and for the moment the two are most often used interchangeably while discussing in general heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and all the other natural and synthetic children of opium.

In terms of effect the two varieties are essentially indistinguishable.

More technically, opiates are derived from opium: morphine, for example, or heroin, which was developed as a refinement of morphine.

Opioids are chemically similar to and mimic the effects of opiates but may be partially or completely synthetic.

Examples include oxycodone — common brand-name formulations OxyContin and Percocet — and hydrocodone, often found as Vicodin. Fentanyl, several times more powerful than heroin and the accused or actual culprit in occasional rashes of overdose deaths, is another.

— Recorder Staff


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