What Are the Different Types of Opioids?

Opioids are a group of analgesics (i.e., painkillers) generally prescribed by doctors. Using opioids triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine by the drug interacting with the opioid receptors of cells in the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. This release leads to feelings of relaxation and euphoria.

Over 11.4 million Americans admit to using opioids without a prescription.1

The most commonly used opioids range from legally prescribed painkillers to illegal or synthetic narcotics produced for recreational use.

These include:

  • Codeine – A prescription analgesic produced in tablet form and present in some cough syrups
  • Fentanyl – A synthetic opioid of greater potency than morphine and heroin
  • Hydrocodone – A semi-synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain
  • Heroin – A highly addictive, illegal opioid made from the opium poppy flower for recreational use
  • Prescription Opioids – Including hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone, morphine, and hydromorphone (Dilaudid)2

What Is Opioid Withdrawal?

Despite the intention for these drugs to be used responsibly for pain management, prolonged use may cause opioid dependence. Tolerance to the drugs builds, and the dosage needed to obtain the same effects increases until the user becomes physically dependent.

Accidental overdose due to relapse after quitting or while attempting to counter withdrawal symptoms could prove fatal.

What Are the Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms?

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The effects of opioid withdrawal vary according to the type of drug and duration of usage. Withdrawal symptoms begin to appear within 24 hours of the last use and gradually worsen.

The early symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive yawning

Around 24 to 36 hours after the last dose, symptoms intensify and may include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Goosebumps
  • Elevated heart rate

In most cases, symptoms begin to ease after around three days. Acute symptoms should almost entirely dissipate after a week. However, long-acting prescription opioids such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, and morphine may cause withdrawal symptoms for up to two weeks.

The possible longer-lasting effects of opioid withdrawal include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression

These may last for months after the initial withdrawal period has passed.

How Does a Supervised Opioid Detox Work?

While detoxing from opioid narcotics unaided may not be as medically threatening as the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol or benzodiazepines, the process can still be very uncomfortable and frightening. An opioid rehab center or clinic provides support by supplying a calm, controlled environment and various options for opioid treatment.

One option to alleviate the effects of withdrawal is the administration of drugs that counter these effects. Using aspirin or loperamide (such as Imodium) may ease mild symptoms. More severe reactions require more potent medications.

What Are the Medications for Opioid Withdrawal?

  • Methadone and Buprenorphine – Relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and can be used for the long-term management of opioid dependence
  • Clonidine – Helps reduce withdrawal symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and anxiety
  • Naltrexone – Used mainly to prevent a relapse, it must only be administered after complete opioid detoxification
  • Naloxone – Effective for treating an opioid overdose if administered immediately3

Opioid abuse is highly detrimental to your physical and mental health. Receiving help from trained professionals may be the best first step to overcoming addiction. Your wellbeing is worth getting the assistance you need.

Are you suffering from opioid withdrawal? Call our hotline for help today.


  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/opiate-withdrawal
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids
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