The media often uses the words "opioid" and "opiate" interchangeably. However, there are subtle but important differences between them.
The term opioid refers to any drug that acts on opioid receptors in the brain1, resulting in a wide range of pharmacological effects, especially analgesia (stopping pain). Other common uses for these drugs are suppressing a cough and stopping diarrhea. The term opioid encompasses all drugs -- synthetic, semi-synthetic, or naturally occurring -- which act on opioid receptors.
Opiates are a subset of opioids that are either derived from poppy or synthesized from any drug that is found in poppy or synthesized from one. It does not matter if the drug is synthetic or...