Painkilling Medications – Are Opiates NSAIDs?

Opiates and NSAIDs are both common pain medications, but are opiates NSAIDs?

The brief answer to this question is no.

Opiates, members of the opioid family of substances, are powerful painkillers capable of triggering addiction.

NSAIDs have their own drawbacks, but a risk of addiction is not one of them.

As a rule, opiates and NSAIDs are used in different types of circumstances.

Both can be used safely when taken under a doctor’s care.

Which type of medication fits your needs?

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between opiates and NSAIDs.

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Are Opiates NSAIDs – Defining Opiates

Many people view opiates and opioids as interchangeable terms. However, they are not entirely the same. All opiates are opioids. This means that they are based on substances found in a plant called the opium poppy.

However, there are types of opioids that are not opiates. What is the difference between the two?

Opiates are made directly from substances in the opium poppy. For this reason, they are called natural opioids.

However, there are also two additional types of opioids:

  • Semi-synthetic opioids made from both natural substances and manmade chemicals
  • Synthetic opioids made from nothing but manmade chemicals

Perhaps the two most well-known opiate medications are codeine and morphine. The illegal street drug heroin is also an opiate.

Examples of semi-synthetic and fully synthetic opioids include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydromorphone

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Are Opiates NSAIDs – Uses for Opiates

Opiates and other opioids are used as painkillers because they change how you respond to pain signals. Normally, these signals travel from the spot of injury through your nervous system to your brain. Opiates disrupt pain signals and interfere with your brain’s ability to detect them.

Since opiates are powerful and potentially addictive, they are not used to treat all kinds of pain. Instead, their use is reserved for certain moderate or severe pain symptoms. Doctors also sometimes prescribe opiates and other opioids to treat chronic diarrhea or serious coughs.

Are opioids anti-inflammatory? To answer this question, it helps to understand the difference between pain and inflammation. Pain is your nervous system’s way of letting you know that it has detected a local or widespread problem.

It includes disagreeable sensations, such as:  

  • Aching
  • Stinging
  • Prickling
  • Burning

Sometimes, these sensations are relatively dull. However, you may also feel sharp pain anywhere in your body.

Inflammation is triggered by your immune system, not your nervous system. It occurs when your immune system releases white blood cells to protect your body from harm. These cells gather at the location of an injury and surround it. The result is the classic swelling, heat and redness of inflammation.

It is possible to have pain without inflammation. It is also possible to have inflammation without pain. However, the two symptoms often appear together. Opiates are sometimes used to treat the combination of pain and inflammation. Why? If inflammation occurs in an area with plenty of nerve endings, it can lead to significant amounts of pain.

What are NSAIDs & Are They Opiates? - Emerald Isle Health & Recovery - An individual sits with an addiction therapist and questions whether or not: "Are Opiates NSAIDs?"


Are Opiates NSAIDs – Defining NSAIDs

The term NSAID stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. This is the name of a large group of medications that treat inflammation, as well as pain and fever. Unlike opiates, not all NSAIDs are chemically related. Instead, they are grouped by the effect they have on your body. Many of these medications are available over-the-counter, or OTC. Others are prescription-only.

The most well-known over-the-counter NSAIDs include:

  • Aspirin
  • Naproxen sodium
  • Ibuprofen

Another OTC medication, acetaminophen, is also used to treat pain and fever. However, acetaminophen does not fight inflammation. For this reason, it is not classified as an NSAID. Some products combine acetaminophen with an NSAID medication.

Examples of stronger, prescription NSAIDs include:

  • Fenoprofen
  • Celecoxib
  • Indomethacin
  • Diclofenac


Are Opiates NSAIDs – Uses for NSAIDs

Over-the-counter NSAIDs are used to treat relatively minor symptoms of conditions, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Migraine headaches
  • Gout
  • Achy muscles
  • Back pain
  • Cramps related to a woman’s menstrual cycle

If you have stronger symptoms, you may receive a prescription NSAID instead. These medications are most often used to treat serious forms of arthritis. In addition, your doctor may prescribe one if you have serious back pain not related to arthritis.

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NSAIDs as Substitutes for Opiates

NSAIDs are sometimes used as substitutes or replacements for opiates. When they play this role, they are known as opioid-sparing agents. Why do doctors prescribe NSAIDs when they could prescribe opiates? There are several reasons for this.

First, NSAIDs provide just as much pain relief as opiates in certain circumstances. In addition, unlike opiates, NSAIDs are not habit-forming or addictive. There is also a difference in overdose risks. NSAID overdoses do not usually harm you in severe ways. However, an opioid overdose can easily kill you if you do not get emergency medical treatment.   

What are NSAIDs & Are They Opiates? - Emerald Isle Health & Recovery - An individual sits with an addiction therapist and questions whether or not: "Are Opiates NSAIDs?"


Opiates and Addiction

If you take a prescription opiate for even a short amount of time, you have a chance of becoming addicted. This is especially true if you do not follow the terms of your prescription. Every year, people across the U.S. misuse their opiate prescriptions in some way. And every year, well over a million Americans develop opioid use disorder or OUD.

People with OUD are either addicted to opiates/opioids or suffer from serious, non-addicted abuse. If you are affected by opioid use disorder, you must get help to recover your sobriety.

The typical course of recovery includes detox and active treatment. Detox, or detoxification, helps you bring your opiate misuse to an end. Both medications and behavioral therapy play a part in opiate rehab plans.

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Are Opiates NSAIDs – Get More Information

Opiates are powerful, prescription substances made directly from products of the opium poppy.

NSAIDs are a much larger, more diverse group of OTC and prescription medications.

Both opiates and NSAIDs can be used to treat pain.

But are opiates NSAIDs?


They belong to a different class of medications.

Are opiates anti-inflammatory?

They can be. However, they are not typically frontline treatments for inflammation-related problems.

Your doctor may prescribe an opiate if you have moderate or severe pain.

You may also receive this kind of medication for certain coughs or cases of diarrhea.

The number one symptom addressed by NSAIDs is mild to severe inflammation.

NSAIDs are sometimes used as substitutes for opiates.

This is true because NSAIDs can work just as well as opiates when it comes to relieving pain In addition, NSAID use does not trigger the classic symptoms of addiction.

The positives of opiate medications come with a glaring drawback: a real chance of becoming addicted.

You increase the odds of getting addicted whenever you misuse your opiate prescription.

Opiate addiction is part of a larger condition called opioid use disorder, or OUD.

OUD is a treatable condition, even when it has a severe effect on you.

Together, detox and active treatment help you recover your sobriety.

Your opiate rehab plan will almost certainly include both medication and behavioral therapy.

To learn more about opiates and NSAIDs, speak to the professionals at Emerald Isle.

Every day, we help prescription medication users who may be struggling with addiction.

The knowledge we provide will help you understand your risks and determine if you need help.

Emerald Isle Health and Recovery is also an expert provider of OUD treatment.

Whether you are struggling with opiates or other opioids, you can take full advantage of our customized care plans.