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What Drugs are Opiates & Opioids?

Family members can be the first to notice when their loved one is abusing opiates. Perhaps it started as an innocent prescription for pain after a car accident that eventually became a problem. Or maybe your loved one underwent a rough surgery and started relying on painkillers too much to cope with the discomfort.

No matter how it started, it is important to know exactly what you are dealing with as you try to understand potential addiction. Opiates and opioids are drugs used to treat pain and are highly addictive to anyone who takes them for a prolonged period of time.

Is it an Opiate or Opioid?

Sometimes people interchange these terms, but there is a difference. Natural derivatives of the poppy plant are called opiates. Opiates can also be manufactured synthetically and this entire group of drugs – both those made naturally and synthetically – are known as opioids.

To take it one step farther, opioids are a subclass of narcotics. However, the term narcotics is not often used when talking about opioids in a medical setting, due to its negative association with illegal drugs.

To recap:

  • Opiates – a class of naturally derived drugs
  • Opioids – a group of drugs with opiates as a subclass
  • Narcotics – a group of drugs with opioids as a subclass

Common Opiates and Opioids

Opiates are often prescribed following surgery or a medical procedure to help with pain. Common ones include:

  1. Morphine – This naturally occurring drug is highly addictive.
  2. Meperidine – A synthetic version of morphine.
  3. Hydrocodone – This is a semi-synthetic opioid with brand names that include Lortab and Vicodin.
  4. Oxycodone – This semi-synthetic drug goes by the brand names Percocet and Oxycontin.
  5. Fentanyl – It is highly addictive and produced synthetically. If prescribed, it usually is done so as a transdermal patch.

While many of these drugs start as legal prescriptions, another illicit drug falls into this category as well: Heroin.

Heroin is a highly addictive opiate made from morphine. Heroin can be injected, sniffed, snorted or smoked.

Common Street Names for Heroin

Family members should familiarize themselves with the street names of heroin, so loved ones cannot sneak these terms past them:

– H
– Hammer
– Skag
– Gear
– Smack
– Horse
– Elephant
– Rock
– Nose drops
– Black tar
– White
– China white
– Chinese H
– White dynamite
– Dragon

Why Are Opioids So Addictive?

Using opiates for even a short amount of time can lead to an addiction and abuse. While anyone is at risk for opiate addiction, your loved one’s personal history and length of time using opioids can play a role.

Opioid abuse triggers the release of endorphins, which are the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. This causes a temporary, but very powerful sense of well-being. When the dose wears off, the person using the drug wants those feelings back right away. This is known as the first milestone toward addiction.

Overtime, the body slows its production of endorphins, meaning the same dose doesn’t trigger those good feelings and a higher dose is necessary. This is how the cycle of addiction begins.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction is Available at Footprints Beachside Recovery

The opioid abuse epidemic has turned into a national emergency and is becoming a leading cause of death. If you believe your loved one needs treatment help for an opioid addiction, don’t wait. The holistic approach at Footprints Beachside Recovery can work to overcome this addiction and help your loved one take back control of their life.

Contact us right away to discuss a personalized treatment plan for your loved one. Call us to speak to a member of our admissions team.


How Opioid Addiction Occurs. (Accessed Sept 10, 2018).

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