What is an Opiate Addiction?
Opiates are substances that are derived from the opium plant, poppy. They elicit a pain-relieving effect by binding to the opioid receptors in one’s brain and depressing the central nervous system. When abused, opiates can cause feelings of euphoria, as the brain is flooded with dopamine. When the feelings of the “high” begin to wear off, the individual will physically crave more of the substance. This can quickly become an unhealthy, cyclical pattern of abuse that can lead to physical dependence (needing opiates in one’s system to function) and subsequently addiction.
The term “opiate” is often incorrectly used interchangeably with the term opioid. All opiates are accurately categorized as opioids, but not all opioids are actually opiates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that opiates refer to the natural version of opioids (e.g. morphine, codeine, and heroin), whereas opioids encompass all natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic opioids. Opioids are a class of drugs often used to relieve chronic and/ or intense pain.