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Types of Opioids and Treatments

Health & Benefits

There are different types of opioids as well as opioid use treatments.

Types of Opioids

Opioids–also known as narcotics and painkillers–are a class of drugs that treat moderate to severe pain. They block the feeling of pain work by targeting opioid receptors in the brain.

Some opioids come from natural plant compounds (alkaloids).  They come from a specific kind of poppy plant called an opium poppy.

Other opioid drugs are synthetic, meaning they are human-made substances created in a laboratory.

Or, an opioid drug may contain both naturally derived and synthetic ingredients, including other drugs.

Opioids include:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Norco® and Lortab®)
  • Tramadol
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Meperidine (Demerol®)
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Methadone (used in medication-assisted treatment for OUD)
  • Buprenorphine (used in medication-assisted treatment for OUD)

Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) or Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) is the evidence-based standard of care treatment for OUD. MOUD is commonly used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, or it can be used on its own. MOUD used to be called “Medication Assisted Treatment” (MAT), but the name has been updated. The name change reflects the recognition that medicine is of central importance in the treatment plan. 

There are three Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications approved to treat OUD. They are: 

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine 
  • Naltrexone 

These drugs work by relieving opioid cravings. They change how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. They also block the pleasurable sensations of opioids. These medications are designed to treat symptoms of OUD without causing a “high.” Studies have shown that MOUD reduces illicit use, the risks of overdose and death, disease rates, and criminal legal involvement.

MOUD for treatment, when used as prescribed, has been shown to reduce overdose and death rates of people who use opioids. MOUD does not substitute one addiction for another. 


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