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What Are the Different Types of Opioids?

Learn about the different types, side effects, dangers, and treatment options for opioids.

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Different types of opioids have various medical uses, making them a commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of pain and other medical conditions. However, opioids can be addictive if they are misused or abused.

What Are Opioids?

There are many different types of opioid drugs that can have varying side effects. When opioids are taken, they affect the opioid receptors in the brain that change the way the body interprets pain. Prescription opioids are primarily used to treat moderate to severe pain and generally are only prescribed for a short period of time.1 Misuse and abuse of these substances can be dangerous, so it’s important to follow strict medical guidelines if prescribed an opioid medication.

Opioids may be abused recreationally for the euphoric feeling when taking them in high doses. Recreational opioids, such as heroin, are also commonly abused and can have many negative side effects. Opioid addiction is serious and can have many lasting negative effects on someone’s life and well-being. Nonetheless, resources are available that help people get the right support and treatment for opioid addiction.

Opiates vs. Opioids: What Is the Difference?

While many people use the terms opiates and opioids interchangeably, there is a difference between them. Opiates refer specifically to all-natural opioids found in plants and other sources in nature. Natural opiates include heroin, morphine, and codeine. The term opioids refer to all-natural and synthetic opioids.2

How Are Opioids Taken?

There are a variety of ways that opioid drugs can be taken, and different types of opioids may have different forms of use. For example, prescription opioids are often taken in pill form to be swallowed. Stronger prescription opioids like morphine and fentanyl are usually given through an IV. When heroin is used recreationally, it is commonly injected, snorted, or smoked.

What Are the Types of Opioids?

Opioid drugs can come in a variety of forms and may have different uses. Knowing the types of opioids is necessary for proper treatment and support when someone is struggling with addiction, as different side effects of opioids can occur depending on the type and way the drug is taken.

Prescription Opioids 

Prescription opioids are prescribed for the treatment of pain and other appropriate medical uses. Depending on the opioid prescribed, they may have different strengths and side effects. When someone is prescribed opioids, it’s important to take them only under the recommended guidelines from a medical professional since these medications can be highly addictive.


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, meaning it is artificially designed in a lab. Fentanyl is fifty to one hundred times stronger than morphine and is generally only prescribed for the treatment of severe pain or for those who aren’t responding to treatment with other opioid medications.

Fentanyl should be used and prescribed with caution since it is highly addictive. Only short-term medical use is recommended with this drug to avoid addiction. When fentanyl is abused recreationally, it can be very dangerous and likely cause an overdose since it is so potent.


Heroin is an illegal opioid drug that is commonly produced, bought, and sold for recreational use. Using heroin can be very dangerous, and abuse of this drug can lead to many negative consequences, such as long-term health issues, dependence, and overdose.

Other Common Drug Names of Opioids

Knowing the common names of opioids can be helpful for spotting an addiction and helping someone get the proper treatment that is needed to recover. Common opioids that may be abused are:

  • Oxaydo
  • Oxecta
  • OxyContin
  • Percodan
  • Roxicodone
  • Targiniq
  • Xartemis XR
  • Xtampza ER

Side Effects of Opioids

Opioids can have different side effects depending on the type of opioid being taken. Misuse or abuse of opioid drugs can worsen the side effects.

Common Side Effects of Opioids

Common side effects of taking opioid drugs include:3

  • Constipation 
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Physical dependence 
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation 
  • Tolerance 
  • Vomiting

Severe Side Effects of Opioids

There are many severe side effects of opioids that can occur when they are abused or taken in higher than recommended doses.

Respiratory Depression
When opioids are taken in high doses, respiratory depression can occur—difficulty breathing. This can be particularly dangerous if someone has pre-existing health conditions or if an opioid overdose occurs.

Slowed Heart Rate
Another dangerous side effect of opioid abuse can be a severely slowed heart rate. This can be dangerous during an opioid overdose or if someone has a pre-existing heart condition. Having a severely slowed heart rate from opioid abuse can lead to health complications, such as going into cardiac arrest, which can be life-threatening.

Dangers of Opioids

There are many dangers and risks that can come with abusing different types of opioids.

Heroin Dangers

Heroin abuse and addiction can have many different dangers associated with it. The primary way heroin is used is through injection, causing a variety of dangers, such as infections and contracting diseases like HIV or hepatitis C. Another risk of injecting heroin can be collapsed, narrowed, or hardened veins. This can lead to many negative long-term health risks.

Heroin may also be snorted or smoked, which can have a lasting negative impact on the lungs. These methods can lead to chronic nosebleeds or damage to the tissue in the nose when it is snorted for a long period of time.

Fentanyl Dangers

Abuse of fentanyl can also come with many dangers. Since fentanyl is so potent, it can be highly addictive and come with more severe side effects than other opioids. Fentanyl is commonly laced or taken with other drugs during recreational use, making it particularly dangerous and increasing the risk of overdose. According to the CDC, 72.9% of all opioid overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.4 This shows just how dangerous abuse of these substances can be.

Prescription Opioid Dangers

Prescription opioids can also come with many dangers when they are abused over a long period of time. When taken in pill form, prescription opioid abuse can lead to long-term health complications in the liver and digestive system since it is hard for the body to continually process this substance.

Opioid Addiction Risks

Opioid addiction comes with a variety of risks that can impact someone’s life and well-being in many ways. Common addiction risks of opioid addiction may include:

  • Feeling withdrawn from daily activities
  • Financial troubles
  • Irrational or risky behavior
  • Legal problems
  • Long-term health complications
  • Mental health issues
  • Problems at work or school
  • Relationship problems
  • Trouble maintaining steady employment

Opioids Overdose and Withdrawal

When someone struggles with opioid addiction, there is the risk of overdose and withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the type of opioid abused, withdrawal and overdose symptoms may vary.

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

When someone struggles with opioid addiction, withdrawal symptoms are common after ceasing use. Opioid withdrawal generally follows a timeline that can be useful for managing withdrawal symptoms during the treatment process.

Early Stage
When people first stop taking opioids, they will likely start experiencing withdrawal symptoms within a few hours or a few days, depending on the types of opioids used. During this stage, cravings for the drug will begin, and clients may feel anxious or irritable. Generally, early-stage symptoms can be easily managed with distractions and support.

Peak Stage
After thirty to seventy-two hours of stopping opioid use, clients will generally enter the peak stage, where they will experience the most severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from uncomfortable to severe, so it is important to have proper treatment and medical professionals present during this time to ensure comfort and safety.

Late Stage
Most people will enter the late stage around a week after their last opioid use. During the late stage, some withdrawal symptoms may still occur, but they will gradually begin improving over time. Proper treatment and support are still necessary during this time to ensure a full recovery.5

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Common opioid withdrawal symptoms that may occur include:

  • Anxiety
  • Belly cramps
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Seizures
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

Opioid Overdose Symptoms

Opioid overdose can be very serious and even life-threatening. If someone is experiencing signs of an opioid overdose, it’s important to get immediate medical attention. Common signs of an opioid overdose include:

  • Their body going limp
  • Extremely pale face or clammy skin 
  • Fingernails with a blue or purple tint
  • Severely slowed breathing or heart rate
  • They are unresponsive or have trouble speaking
  • Vomiting or making gurgling noises
Opioid Overdose Symptoms

Opioids Addiction Treatment Options

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to opioids, treatment options at Great Oaks Recovery Center are available that can help.

Opioid Detox

One of the first steps in the treatment process is an opioid detox. Withdrawal symptoms experienced during the detox process can be severe, making it essential to receive proper support and treatment during this time. 

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment

Opioid withdrawal treatment provides support and comfort during the detox process as the body removes opioids from its system. Having proper support and treatment for withdrawal symptoms keeps each client safe and comfortable during this difficult time.

Opioid Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medications may also be used during the treatment process to help ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent a relapse from occurring. Common medications used during opioid addiction treatment are methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine.

Continuing Care

Successful treatment programs provide clients with continuing care and help create a long-term plan for success that will guide them even after they finish treatment. Long-term therapy, support groups, and other resources are available to help maintain long-term sobriety.

Getting Help at Great Oaks Recovery Center

If you are looking for opioid addiction treatment, Great Oaks Recovery Center can help. Great Oaks has educated medical and treatment professionals who create a recovery plan that fits each client’s needs. All treatment processes at Great Oaks are evidence-based and tested to provide the best possible results. Long-term recovery from opioid addiction is possible, and no one has to go through it alone. Contact us today for more information on what treatment options are available.



Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.