What is an opioid? Understanding the terminology around addiction, recovery

The emotional and financial burdens of addiction can take a toll on everyone involved, and understanding the terminology behind drugs or treatments can feel overwhelming. 

What's the difference between oxycodone and morphine? Is heroin used for medical purposes? Can someone who's overdosing be revived with Suboxone?

All the information and options are daunting. But, one of the most important distinctions to make is that everyone's recovery journey is different.

"Not everybody needs to be on (medicated-assisted) drugs. Some people can work a very good recovery program, and not be on any of these medications and do very well," said Christopher Davis, doctor of addiction medicine in York.

While studies on large populations show that these medication-assisted programs help curb relapse, it is not always necessary. Maintaining physical dependency, meaning keeping the body's attachment to opioids as a way to avoid withdrawal, is one of the main deters of these programs.

"I support (those that don't want medication-assistance), I let them know that your risk of relapsing in the first few months of your recovery is probably higher not being on it but that doesn't mean that relapse is inevitable and that everybody has to be on this medicine," Davis said. "It's not that cut and dry."

To try and shed a light on this oftentimes confusing topic, here's a look at the differences between opioids.

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