What are the Different Types of Opioids?

Learn more about the different types of opioids, what they are used for, and addiction treatment options.

Table of Contents

Overview

Opioids are substances that are often used to treat moderate to severe pain. Opioids are derived from natural compounds found in the poppy plant that bind to opioid receptors in the brain in order to reduce pain. 1

Opioids are sometimes referred to as opiates, painkillers, or narcotics. Though the terms “opioid” and “opiate” are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two.

types of opioids

Opioids

This term refers to the opioid types that are synthetic. Synthetic opioids include fentanyl, methadone, and tramadol. Some opioids are considered semi-synthetic, meaning that these types of opioids are produced in a lab but also contain a chemical compound from the poppy plant. These semi-synthetic opioid drugs include oxycodone, hydrocodone, heroin, and oxymorphone.2

Opiates

This term refers to the natural types of opioids. These opioids are drugs that are chemical compounds derived from poppy plant material. These types of opioids include morphine, opium, and codeine.

Opioids can be taken in many forms. Prescription opioids are typically taken in pill form. However, opioids can also be administered as lollipops or lozenges, a patch placed on the skin, in liquid form, powder, or injected. Therefore, someone who is using opioids, either legally or illegally, can take the substance orally, nasally, or intravenously. 3

What Are the Types of Opioids?

The different types of opioids include natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic. Within these three opioid types, there are various subcategories, which are detailed below.

Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioids can be used to treat moderate to severe pain, especially after surgery. Types of opioids prescribed include oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodine), morphine, and methadone. The most common opioids used are oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl can also be used as a prescription to treat severe pain. However, there has been a rise in illegally made and distributed fentanyl. Fentanyl has been shown to be fifty to one hundred times more potent than morphine and responsible for an increase in opioid overdoses. 4

Heroin

Heroin is an illegal opioid that is highly addictive. Heroin has been responsible for a large number of overdoses. According to the CDC, nearly 143,000 people died from overdoses involving heroin between 1999 and 2020.5

Other Common Drug Names of Opioids

Besides being referred to as opioids, opiates, narcotics, and painkillers, different types of opioids have different street names. Some of the common street names include: 6

  • Percs/Perks
  • Oxy/Oxy 80
  • Dope
  • H
  • Demmies
  • Blues/Blue Heaven
  • Goodfella
  • Dance Fever

Side Effects of Different Types of Opioids

Side effects of opioid use can vary significantly depending on the amount consumed, length of time taken, and types of opioids used. However, all opioid types produce some level of side effects.

Common Side Effects of Opioids

Common opioid side effects include sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression. 7

Severe Side Effects of Opioids

The more severe opioid side effects can include slowed breathing and heart rate, severe gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea, sleep issues, heart failure, hormone issues, problems with the immune system, misuse, addiction, and overdose. 8

Dangers of Opioids

The dangers of opioid use include addiction risks, dependence, and the increase in the potential for overdose and possible death. All types of opioids have a high addiction potential due to the pleasurable and euphoric feeling these drugs produce. Even prescribed opioids have the potential to develop tolerance and dependence, leading to addiction.

Opioids Overdose and Withdrawal

As opioids have high rates of misuse, abuse, and addiction, they also have higher rates of overdose. In order to prevent possible overdose, it is important to withdraw from opioid drugs.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioids are drugs that often produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you stop or decrease the amount used. Opioid withdrawal can have varying effects on the body and is best done with medical assistance. Opioids bind to receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, when you develop dependence, these systems can all be affected.

Common withdrawal side effects include: 9

  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweats/chills
  • Runny eyes/nose
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

The withdrawal timeline for types of opioids can vary depending on factors such as age, weight, metabolism, opioid type, the half-life of the type of opioid, and length of time used. However, with most types of opioids, the withdrawal symptoms are most intense between 24 to 72 hours after the last use. The physical symptoms will often last between five and seven days after the last use; however, psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression, and cravings can last much longer.

Opioid Overdose Symptoms

Since opioids are drugs with a high potential for overdose, it is important to recognize the symptoms of overdose. The opioid overdose symptoms to look out for include:10
  • Extremely pale complexion and/or clammy skin
  • Fingernails or lips are blue or purple in color
  • Choking, vomiting, or making gurgling noises
  • Body goes limp
  • Unable to awaken or unable to speak
  • Breathing or heart rate slows or stops
Call 911 or emergency medical services immediately if a person exhibits any of these symptoms.

Opioids Addiction Treatment Options

There are numerous options for the treatment of opioid abuse, misuse, or disorders.
opioids types

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment

Treatment of opioid abuse often starts with managing withdrawal. This can be done via tapering or “cold turkey.” Due to the often intense withdrawal symptoms, it is recommended to complete an opioid detox in a medical facility. This provides 24-hour medical support and the use of medication to reduce or alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Opioids Medication

Opioid treatment also can involve the use of medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. This is referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Types of MAT are buprenorphine, naloxone, and methadone. These medications bind to the same receptors as opioids but tend to block or blunt the effects created by opioid types.

Getting Help at Soledad House

Soledad House is a facility that specializes in women’s addiction recovery. At Soledad House, we provide evidence-based treatment that aims at treating the whole person. Our focus is on helping women recover from addiction through physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

We offer programs aimed at identifying the underlying causes of addiction, as well as focusing on continuing care and education. If you or someone you know are struggling with opioid addiction, contact us at 866.314.3181 or https://soledadhouse.com/contact/.