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What Are Different Types of Opioids

Different types of opioids have varying effects on the body. Read on to learn about how they work and what their addiction effects are.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids can consist of legally obtained substances, like prescription painkillers, or illegally obtained substances, like heroin. Opioids are a group of chemicals that are naturally occurring in the opium poppy plant.

They act on the brain to create a range of effects, including the reduction of pain with many of these medications. The brain cells produce signals that reduce the sense of pain and increase the emotions of pleasure when opioid drugs pass through your blood and bind to opioid receptors.[1]

Types of opioids

How Do Opioids Work?

Opioids bind to opioid receptors, which are proteins on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, stomach, and other body areas. When this occurs, the opioids stop the transmission of pain signals from the body to the brain via the spinal cord. Additionally, opioids make dopamine-producing neurons fire more frequently. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that contributes to our ability to experience pleasure. This produces euphoric sensations.

By reducing gastric motility, which is the mechanism by which food moves through the digestive tract via a sequence of muscle contractions, some opioids are used to treat diarrhea. This gives the body's digestive system more time to absorb the meal.

Risk of Opioid Use

Opioids can successfully reduce pain, but they also come with some hazards and have a significant potential for addiction. The risk of addiction is very substantial when opioids are taken for a prolonged time to treat chronic pain.

What Are Opioids Approved For?

Oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine are a few examples of strong painkillers. They have advantages as well as potentially harmful side effects. The devastating side effects of these drugs have hurt many people, and despite continuous efforts, the opioid crisis's scale is only getting worse.

Some opioids have also been given the go-ahead by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating persistent diarrhea and severe coughing. Loperamide is an opioid that medical professionals use to treat irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea (IBS). Opioids like dextromethorphan and codeine are effective cough suppressants.[2]

What Are the Different Types of Opioids?

Opioids come in a wide variety of forms and are referred to by many different names. The different types of opioids will be detailed below.


As a semi-synthetic opioid drug that is classified as a Schedule II opioid, hydrocodone is used to alleviate pain. It is another antitussive used to treat adult cough as well.


Strong opioids like oxycodone can be helpful when taken sparingly for pain, but it may result in physical reliance and addiction. It’s important not to abuse the prescription that the doctor gave you.


Oxymorphone is a strong Schedule II opioid analgesic with abuse potential comparable to morphine and other Schedule II opioids.


Morphine is frequently regarded as the model opioid analgesic and the standard by which all other analgesics are measured. With repeated usage, morphine may cause someone to develop an eventual addiction to the substance.


In addition to being used as a painkiller and cough suppressant, codeine is also used in several migraine and flu medicines.


A synthetic opioid that is fifty to one hundred times more potent than morphine is called fentanyl. Fentanyl was created as a pharmaceutical to relieve cancer-related pain. People misuse fentanyl because of its potent opioid effects.


Hydromorphone is used to control and treat both severe chronic and moderate to severe acute pain.


Tapentadol may only be obtained with a doctor's prescription. Although Tapentadol is used to treat severe conditions, it may be abused as well if someone doesn’t follow the prescription or obtains it illegally. However, its misuse potential may be lower than that of other opioids.


Methadone is a synthetic opioid analgesic used to treat opioid dependence and chronic pain. In addition to treating heroin or other opioid addiction, it is also utilized to alleviate chronic pain.


Meperidine is used to treat pain that is severe enough to need opioid therapy and when other painkillers are insufficiently effective.

What Are Opioids Used For Medically?

In some situations, the doctor may prescribe opioids that are called prescription opioids. Opioids are frequently utilized as medications because they include molecules that can relax the body and reduce pain. Although certain opioids can be used to treat coughing and diarrhea, prescription opioids are mainly used to treat moderate to severe pain. Medically, opioids can be used as medications for the following:

  • Acute pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Active-phase cancer treatment
  • Palliative
  • End-of-life care

Opioid Tolerance and Addiction

Tolerance develops when an opioid is regularly taken. Because the brain adjusts to its effect, it lessens with time. Pain is treated with opioids when necessary. Pain might worsen, and pain-relieving benefits may diminish with continued usage. The body may also grow dependent on the substance.[3]

It is challenging to stop using opioids since withdrawal symptoms are brought on by opioid dependency. When reliance disrupts daily living, an addiction may develop. Death might come from taking more opioids than advised or using illicit opioids like heroin.

Does Everyone Who is Prescribed an Opioid Become Addicted?

According to medical professionals, drug addiction is characterized by an uncontrollable, compulsive need for a substance, along with continuing drug use despite recurring, adverse effects. Any person who uses opioids runs the danger of becoming addicted.[4]

Endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain, are released due to opioid use. Endorphins produce a fleeting but potent sense of well-being by decreasing pain perception and increasing pleasure. One could find oneself yearning for those positive emotions to return as quickly as possible after an opiate dose wears off, leading to a tolerance or addiction. 

Types of opioids drugs

Should You Take Opioid Pain Medications?

One can take any type of opioid pain medication, but it must be under the doctor’s prescription. Taking opioids without the doctor’s prescription may be pretty risky. Make sure you've considered all non-addictive alternatives to prescription painkillers. Ask about reducing the dangers and adverse effects if opioids are still your best option.


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