It’s human nature to avoid suffering, and one of the most frequent reasons why people seek medical treatment from a doctor is to help with pain relief. When over-the-counter pain relievers don’t provide the relief that a patient is seeking, the doctor can prescribe a stronger pain medication.
However, when not used according to the doctor’s instructions, or used for a long period of time they can lead to drug addiction.
Difference Between Opiates And Opioids
Opiates: A Natural Pain Remedy
Opiates are alkaloids derived from the opium poppy. Opium is a strong pain relieving medication, and a number of drugs are also made from this source.
Types Of Opiates
Opioids: Synthetic Pain Medications
Opioids are synthetic or partly-synthetic drugs that are manufactured to work in a similar way to opiates. Their active ingredients are made via chemical synthesis. Opioids may act like opiates when taken for pain because they have similar molecules.
Types Of Opioids
Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin (oxycodone)
Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab (hydrocodone)
How Opiates And Opioids Work
Both of these types of drugs alter the way that pain is perceived, as opposed to making the pain go away. They attach onto molecules that protrude from certain nerve cells in the brain called opioid receptors. Once they are attached, the nerve cells send messages to the brain that are not accurate measures of the severity of the pain that the body is experiencing. Thus the person who has taken the drug experiences less pain.
Drugs in these classes also affect how the brain feels pleasure. A person who takes them who is not in pain will experience a feeling of elation, followed by deep relaxation and/or sleepiness.
Addiction To Opiates And Opioids
When people use these medications only to treat pain as directed and for a short time, they are less likely to become addicted. Prescription drug addiction occurs when patients develop a tolerance for the level of medication they have been described and no longer get the same level of relief.
They may not have the same expectations for relief as their physicians and may equate the term “painkillers” with the medication being able to take away all of their pain, while their doctor may be thinking in terms of pain management, which means bringing the pain to a level where they can function at a reasonable manner. When expectations do not match, patients may take more of the pain medication than prescribed to get a higher level of relief and in turn develop a drug addiction issue.