What Are the Different Types of Opioids?

What are the types of opioids, how do they work, and how does someone start to become on them? Read on to find out more.

What Are Opioids?

Naturally found in the poppy plant, opioids are a class of drugs that work in the brain to produce pain-relieving effects. Some opioids come in the form of prescription medication, while others can be found in non-medical settings, such as heroin. 1

Opioids are powerful drugs that can lead a person to dependence and addiction. To learn more about opioids and how they can cause addiction, read on in the following article.

How Do Opioids Work?

When someone uses an opioid, the drug attaches itself to opioid receptors found in the brain, gut, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. This process blocks pain receptors from sending messages as they normally would from the spinal cord to the brain, and in turn, the individual using opioids will generally not feel pain.

What Are Opioids Used For?

Different types of opioids can be used to treat a variety of issues. People who may be prescribed opioid medications include those with chronic back aches or headaches, those who are recovering from surgery, people who have been seriously injured in an accident, and people experiencing severe pain associated with cancer.

While opioid medications are certainly effective at treating pain, there is unfortunately a high potential for abuse. Most people do not develop an opioid use disorder if they are using them for only a short time — for example, for a couple of days following a minor procedure. However, some studies show that even one dose of an opioid medication can have lasting physiological effects. Studies indicate that the longer a person uses opioids, the more likely that person is to develop a physical dependence or substance use disorder. 2

Opioid vs Opiate

Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference: opiate drugs are natural opioids like heroin, morphine, and codeine, while the word “opioids” is an overall term that refers to all opioids, including synthetic, semi-synthetic, and natural opioids.

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid use disorder affects an individual’s brain in such a way that they feel as though using the drug is necessary for survival. Over two million Americans misuse opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and each day more than ninety Americans die from an opioid overdose.

Opioid use disorder, like other substance use disorders, can be more likely to happen to someone depending on genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. 3

Risk Factors

Some risk factors for opioid use disorder include:

  • Past or current substance abuse
  • Being younger in age
  • Untreated psychiatric conditions
  • Family members who misuse opioids
  • Being in an environment that encourages opioid use

These are just risk factors, and if one of these risk factors apply to you or a loved one, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop a substance use disorder. Most doctors agree that for most people, taking prescribed opioids for a few days is generally safe and should not lead to addiction.

Opioid Side Effects

Opioids affect all users differently, and side effects can vary between different opioids, depending on the level of addition or the dosage being taken. Someone who has an opioid use disorder may show a lack of interest in things they used to enjoy, have trouble maintaining personal relationships, and may also develop health problems. Depending on the level of usage, obtaining opioids and experiencing an opioid high may become the center of the affected individual’s life.

Common Side Effects

Some common side effects of opioids on the body include:

  • Sleepiness or grogginess
  • Constipation
  • Decreased libido
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea

Severe Side Effects

Opioid use can also cause more serious side effects depending on the amount of usage or how long the individual has been using opioids, including:

  • Increased shallow breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or someone you know is experiencing the above serious side effects, contact a doctor immediately. These symptoms can be life-threatening and may indicate an opioid overdose. 4

Types of Opioids ​

There are many different types of opioids prescribed by doctors, including:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Morphine

Sometimes, these types of opioids are sold under different names including OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. Heroin is one of the most illegal and highly misused opioids, which is not medically prescribed. However, all opioid types have the potential to be used illegally.

How Can You Safely Use Opioid Drugs to Manage Pain?

While it is important to note the misuse potential of opioids, it’s also important to know that it can be possible to safely use opioid painkillers for pain management. First and foremost, make sure to only use the opioid medicine under the supervision of a physician, and be sure to take the medicine only as directed by a physician as well. Additionally, report both major and minor side effects to a doctor, as different opioids can have varying side effects.

Another good step to taking opioids safely and responsibly is talking to a physician anaesthesiologist. Physician anaesthesiologists are doctors who specialize in pain management and opioid medicine, and they have extensive training in prescribing opioid medications. Speaking with a pain management specialist will ensure that the pain is being kept under control while also minimizing side effects and the risk of addiction.

What Are the Effects of Opioids?

Even for someone who does not misuse opioid pills or opiate drugs may experience side effects and it is important to understand the way opioid medication may impact your or a loved one’s life. Some common opioids effects to look out for include: 5

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal problems including constipation and/or vomiting
  • Tolerance – where the drug is less effective
  • Hormone changes
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Muscle spasms

Different opioids may cause different effects. In addition to the above physical symptoms, opioid use can also lead to cognitive opioids effects. These side effects include confusion, brain fog or mental clouding, and in rare cases, delirium. 6

Overcome Opioid Addiction with Essence Healthcare

If you or someone you know is experiencing opioid use disorder, know that there is help available. At Essence Healthcare, all levels of care are available. Whether detoxing or residential or intensive outpatient treatment is needed, Essence is committed to meeting you where you are with compassion. With a focus on present issues, Essence works to end not only the cycle of misuse, but also the cycle of treatment.

Essence Healthcare Treatment Programs

Essence treats all substance addictions, including all types of opioids use disorders, and uses a variety of treatment programs and techniques. Some of these include:

  • 12-Step Model
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Family Systems approach
  • Meditation
  • Music Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Outdoor Adventure Therapy, and much more.

Additionally, Essence is committed to helping all people, offering geriatric treatment, young adult treatment, men’s-only and women’s-only rehabs, and is LGBTQ+ friendly.

Essence prioritizes health and recovery first by giving instant access to treatment and customized attention from our dedicated team, leading to positive changes and a faster recovery.

Table of Contents

Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.