Types of Opiates, Symptoms, and Detox

Detox Hospitalization

Detox patient

Opiate addiction is a widespread problem in the United States. The prolific use of these narcotic pain relievers quickly leads to dependence and addiction; therefore, it is beneficial to better understand the drugs in order to properly fight their abuse and prevent future addiction and overdose.

Types of Opiates

Opiates are drugs that are commonly used to treat pain, also called narcotics. Opiates naturally come from the seed of a poppy plant. They produce an easy high and, therefore, people easily abuse them. Opioids are similar drugs; however, they are created synthetically in a lab and are much stronger. There are three main categories of opiate-type drugs, which include the following:

  • Natural opiates – These are drugs derived from the poppy plant. They include morphine, codeine and thebaine.
  • Semi-synthetic opioids – These drugs are derived from natural opiates but are synthetically altered. They include hydrocodone, oxycodone and heroin.
  • Synthetic opioids – These are drugs that are chemically similar to opiates but are purely synthetic. They are the most powerful of the three and include fentanyl, tramadol and methadone.[1]

Although fully-synthetic opioids are the strongest of the three categories, all opiate-type drugs have a high risk for abuse and addiction.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Once a person is dependent on opiates for everyday living, when the person abruptly stops taking them or decreases usage, withdrawal occurs. Withdrawal from any drug can be very uncomfortable, and opiate withdrawal is no exception. Early withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Withdrawal symptoms then progress and later include the following:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting[2]

Although these symptoms are not life threatening, opiate withdrawal can still be very dangerous. It is always best to end drug use under supervision from trained medical personnel. This is call detox, and a medical treatment facility is the best place for someone to experience the detox process

Opiate Detoxification

Once the person abusing opiates commits to detox in a medical facility with trained professions, the medical staff will make sure to help the addict detox in the safest and most comfortable way possible. Because opiate withdrawal is so strong, many people succumb to the pain of withdrawal symptoms and begin using again to provide themselves relief. In order to prevent such a relapse, many practitioners use drugs to help counteract or ease the painful withdrawal process. Such drugs include the following:

  • Methadone – This is an opioid drugs that is long acting but does not produce the same high as other opiates.
  • Buprenorphine – This drug reduces the body’s craving of the opioid drug and prevents the resulting withdrawal symptoms.
  • Clonidine – Commonly prescribed for blood pressure problems, clonidine helps the brain stay calm during withdrawal and prevents the fight or flight response from activating.[3]

How to Get Help

Doctors prescribe opioid pain relievers to millions of people each year resulting in more potential addictions with each prescription. If you or someone you love is addicted to opiates, there is help available. There are options to help someone who is addicted end their addiction safely under the supervision of medical staff in a safe environment. You are never alone. Please call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline today to begin the process of achieving sobriety and living and healthy life.


[1] “Real Teens Ask: What Are the Different Types of Opioids?,” Sara Bellum, https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/real-teens-ask-what-are-different-types-opioids-0

[2] “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal,” Jacob Heller, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000949.htm

[3] “Treating an Addiction to Painkillers,” David T. Derrer, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/breaking-an-addiction-to-painkillers-treatment-overvew