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The term opiate is often incorrectly used interchangeably with the term opioid. All opiates are accurately categorized as opioids, but not all opioids are opiates. Opioids are a type of drug used to alleviate moderate to moderately severe pain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), “Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.” While opioids encompass all-natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic opioids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that opiates refer exclusively to the natural version of opioids (e.g., morphine, codeine, and heroin). Opiates are substances that are derived from the opium plant, poppy. When ingested, opiates elicit a pain-relieving effect by binding to the opioid receptors in one’s brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in one’s body. Opiates work by depressing the central nervous system and adjusting the amount of information surrounding pain that is relayed to various areas of one’s body, which in turn reduces one’s perception of pain.

Signs and Symptoms

Every individual is different and has the propensity to exhibit a unique combination of signs and symptoms when under the influence of opiates. Warning signs and symptoms that may indicate an individual has abused opiates could include but are not limited to, the following examples, provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine

  • Constricted pupils
  • Flushed, itchy skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased libido
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Shaking
  • Needle marks on arms and legs from intravenous (injected) use
  • Excessive sweating
  • Drastic mood swings
  • Uncontrollable opiate cravings
  • Impulsive actions and decision-making
  • Withdrawing from previously enjoyed social activities 

The severity of symptoms will depend on several contributing factors (e.g., an individual’s personal health history, the length of time the individual abused opiates, the frequency of use, the dosage abused, if the individual mixed opiates with any other substances, etc.). If left untreated, habitual opiate abuse can lead to harmful short and long-term consequences. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long-lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment-related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcome to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.