different types of opioids
Healthy Living

What Are the Different Types of Opioids?

Sep 21 2023

Opioids are a class of drug used to treat moderate to severe pain. People recovering from surgery, a serious injury, cancer patients and those with chronic pain may receive opioid prescriptions from their health care provider. However, there are different types of opioids to be aware of.

While opioids are effective painkillers, they can be addictive. When opioids are misused or abused, it can lead to overdose and even death.

First, how do opioids work?

Both natural and man-made opioids have similar effects on the body. They block pain signals from the brain to the rest of the body and release a chemical that creates a feeling of relaxation and pleasure. The feeling lasts for a short period of time. In some cases, patients develop a tolerance to the drug, which means they will need to take a larger dose to get the same results.

If a doctor prescribes you an opioid, it’s vital to talk about the medication and how it fits into your treatment plan. Also, follow the instructions you are given carefully. And last, store the medication in a safe place and do not share it with others.

Opioids vs. opiates

While there are different types of opioids, there is also a difference between opioids and opiates. Opiates are drugs made from the poppy plant, such as morphine, codeine and heroin. Opioids is a broader term that refers to opiates and synthetic opioids. Some opioids are semi-synthetic because scientists make them from naturally occurring opiates.


A doctor might prescribe codeine by itself or with other drugs. It also appears in some cough and cold medicines because of the way it calms coughs. You won’t find codeine under a brand name.


Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that doctors often prescribe for severe pain in end-of-life care and advanced cancer patients. It often comes in the form of a patch or lozenge under brand names, such as Abstral and Actiq. Illegal fentanyl sometimes appears with other drugs like cocaine or heroin and is very dangerous.


Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid that also goes by the name Hysingla. It might appear in combination with other medications, like ibuprofen and aspirin. Hydrocodone also appears in some cough and cold medicines, like Tussicaps.


Methadone is a synthetic opioid that helps treat heroin addiction. It reduces withdrawal symptoms. This drug can also serve as a painkiller for people who don’t respond to other drugs.


Oxycodone is a pain reliever commonly known by the brand names OxyContin and Oxaydo. It’s available in tablet form and as a capsule and liquid. It may appear in combination with acetaminophen.

Again, although opioids are useful for relieving pain, they can be very addictive and, therefore, dangerous.

This is why it is very important to follow your health care provider’s instructions while taking them and dispose of any leftover opioids once you’ve finished taking them. Additionally, opioids are not the only option for pain relief. If you are hesitant about taking opioids, talk to your health care provider to go over the different types of opioids as well as all of your pain management options before making a decision.

The Healthy State Alliance partnership is a collaborative effort between Mercy Health and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, dedicated to addressing pressing health care issues in Ohio. With the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic on communities, the alliance is committed to combating this crisis through research, education and patient care initiatives. By leveraging the expertise and resources of both institutions, the Healthy State Alliance aims to develop innovative strategies for prevention, treatment and recovery support.

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