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Opioids and Opiates: What’s the difference?

When it comes to treating pain and anesthesia, opioids and opiates are two common options. These medications are also used to manage coughs and diarrhea, as well as to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). Although both opioids and opiates are categorized as narcotics, they differ in their chemical composition. If you're looking to learn more about the nuances of opioids vs. opiates and their detection time read on.

What are opiates?

Opiates are a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy plant. They are natural compounds that act on the body's opioid receptors, reducing pain perception and inducing feelings of pleasure and euphoria.

Examples of opiates

  • Morphine: A potent opiate (opiate analgesic) used for severe pain relief in clinical settings, and is legally available by prescription.
  • Codeine: A weaker opiate used for mild to moderate pain relief, and cough suppression, and is available both over-the-counter and by prescription.
  • Heroin: An illegal and highly addictive opiate that has no medical use.

What are opioids?

Opioids are similar to opiates, but the term "opioid" is used to describe both natural and synthetic drugs. They are derived from the opium poppy plant or are synthetic substances that mimic the effects of opium. Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the nervous system to produce pain relief, sedation, and a sense of well-being.

Common examples of opioids

  • Methadone: A synthetic opioid used for medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) or opioid addiction and chronic pain management.
  • Oxycodone: A potent opioid medication that is used for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. It works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and blocking pain signals.
  • Hydrocodone: Works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which helps to reduce the perception of pain. Often prescribed in combination with other pain relievers such as acetaminophen.
  • Fentanyl: A powerful painkiller that is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Its potency also makes it a high-risk drug for abuse and addiction.

How long do opioids stay in your system?

The length of time that opioids can be detected in a person's system depends on several factors, including the type of opioid, dosage, frequency of use, and individual metabolism. Generally, opioids can be detected in urine, blood, and saliva for several days to a few weeks after use. For example, heroin can be detected in urine for up to 3-4 days, while methadone can be detected for up to 7-10 days.

How long do opiates stay in your system?

It's important to note that drug tests can detect even small amounts of opiates in the system, and different types of drug tests have different detection windows. Typically, opiates can be detected in various bodily fluids and tissues for the following amounts of time:

  • Blood: 6-24 hours
  • Saliva: 24-48 hours
  • Urine: 2-4 days (up to a week or more for chronic use)
  • Hair: Up to 90 days

Key Take away

Opioids and opiates can have severe consequences on an individual's health and well-being, including addiction, overdose, and even death. It's essential to use these medications only as prescribed and under medical supervision and to be aware of the potential risks and side effects.

It's crucial to understand the detection times to avoid potential consequences in workplace drug testing or legal situations. Overall, education, awareness, and professional support are vital in preventing and addressing opioid and opiate misuse, addiction, and related issues.

If you are an employer seeking support to maintain a secure, drug-free workplace or need to conduct drug testing, get in touch with goMDnow. We provide customize panel drug tests that can help detect opioids and other illicit substances, allowing employers to make informed decisions.

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