What are opioids?

Opioids and/or opiates are any drugs that are derived from the Poppy plant. Opioid and opiates act by binding to receptors within neurons found in the brain. Opioid receptors are responsible for things like; regulating body temperature and the body’s response to stress and pain. By binding to those receptors, opioids affect the way that a person’s body will respond to different stimulus, especially pain. Opioid drugs can also have a dramatic effect on things like mood and digestion, as opioid receptors play a huge role in those body functions as well.

What are some different types of opioids?


alfentanil Alfenta®
buprenorphine Belbuca®, Buprenex®, Butrans®
butorphanol N/A
codeine Fioricet® w/ codeine, Fiorinal® w/ codeine, Soma® w/ codeine, Tylenol 3, Prometh®
dihydrocodeine Synalgos-DC
fentanyl Abstral®, Actiq®, Duragesic®, Fentora®, Ionsys®,Lazanda®, Sublimaze®, Subsys®
hydrocodone Anexsia®, Hysingla® ER, Lortab®, Norco®,Reprexain®, Vicodin®, Vicoprofen®, Zohydro®ER, Flowtuss®(cough), 
hydromorphone Dilaudid®, Dilaudid®-HP, Exalgo®
meperidine Demerol®
methadone Dolophine®
morphine Astramorph ®PF, Duramorph® PF, Embeda®, Infumorph®, Kadian®, Morphabond®, MS Contin®
oxycodone Oxaydo®, Oxycet®, Oxycontin®, Percocet®,Percodan®, Roxicet®, Roxicodone®, Xartemis®XR
oxymorphone Opana®, Opana ER
pentazocine Talwin®
tapentadol Nucynta®, Nucynta ER
tramadol Conzip®, Ultracet®, Ultram®, Ultram®ER


What is the difference between opiates and opioids?

Heroin and opium are considered opiates because they are derived from a poppy plant. An opioid is more of a “blanket term” for any type of painkiller including synthetic drugs like OxyContin. All opiates and opioids work on the same part of the brain, including the cerebral cortex and thalamus, that affects pain. The term “opioid” refers to any drug that acts as a painkiller by binding to opioid receptors. Therefore, every opiate (heroin, morphine, codeine, etc.) is considered an opioid. However, a synthetic opioid like Roxicodone is not officially considered an opiate, although it is created with opiates.

In terms of differences between opioids and opiates, they are almost identical. However, opioids are more commonly prescription medications, while opiates are widely synthesized and are often used in combination with other drugs. The most common of the opiates being heroin. Users beware, if it is coming off the street, you never know what you are going to get! Street dealers are very quick to cut up drugs like heroin, cocaine, meth, flakka, etc. with fentanyl, carfentanyl,  baking soda, sugar, MSM, numbing agents, talcum powder, or even rat poison!  Even more so today, with the impact that the internet is having on the drug market.

How does a person die from using opioids?

Small contracted pupils, unconsciousness, and respiratory depression are all symptoms of an opioid overdose. Respiratory depression is when a person begins to take low and shallow breaths. The danger is when that breathing stops all together.  When the breathing stops is when a person can die from the overdose.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there were 17,029 prescription opioid deaths in 2017, coming out slightly ahead of deaths from Heroin the same year (15,482). The synthetic opioid Fentanyl has become known as the deadliest of all opiates in recent years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 130 Americans die every day from a combination of prescription opioid and street opiates.

How can we lower the amount of overdose deaths?

The best way to prevent opioid overdose deaths is obviously to prevent the use of opioids in the first place. Aside from effective mental, physical, and spiritual treatment for those suffering from addiction, prescription opiate deaths can be prevented by physicians prescribing less of the pain killing narcotic. If opioid use cannot be prevented, the use of Suboxone or Subutex enormously enhances a person’s chances of survival. Suboxone and Subutex are used as detox drugs for opioid addiction. They are meant to be taken short-term to help alleviate the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine, the opioid in Suboxone, was developed in the 1970s as a safer opioid than morphine or heroin for the treatment of pain.

Studies suggested that buprenorphine could be an attractive alternative to methadone, as it could require fewer regulations because of its inherent abuse deterrence properties as a partial opioid agonist-antagonist.¹ The drug’s manufacturer and the addiction treatment community lobbied for an exception to the Narcotic Addict Treatment Act to allow individual providers, rather than federally designated clinics, to prescribe buprenorphine. The Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 authorized physicians via a new individual waiver to prescribe specific opioids for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine is currently the only opioid authorized under this waiver.²

What is an effective treatment for an opioid addiction?

There are multiple ways that opioid addiction can be treated. Normally it is a combination of treatments that is most effective. Drugs like Suboxone and Vivitrol have been found to be very effective at treating physical symptoms of opiate addiction and withdrawal. Just like other addictions, the 12-step programs have been proven to be very effective in treating those addiction to opioids.

At Serenity Springs we have a program that many are unfamiliar with. This makes a detox from drugs or alcohol faster and more comfortable. Amino acid therapy for addiction is another alternative to treating opioid addiction. During this process the client experiences less withdrawal symptoms and cravings are minimized. This allows for the amino acids to begin repairing some of those neuro-transmitters that are damaged by drug or alcohol abuse.


1. Center on Addiction, (2019, April) retrieved from https://centeronaddiction.org

2. Psych Medics, (2019), April) retrieved https://psychmedics.com/opiates

3. DrugAbuse.org, (2019, April) retrieved from https://drugabuse.com/opiates