The three main types of opioid drugs are opiates, synthetic opioids, and semi-synthetic opioids. Opiates are substances made directly from poppy plants, such as opium, morphine, and codeine.
Synthetic opioids are produced in laboratories and have an internal structure that is similar to natural opioids. Although they have the same effect as opiates, they are not created from the opium poppy plant species but are produced in a pharmaceutical lab. Some of the most common synthetic opioids are fentanyl, methadone, and tramadol.
Semi-synthetic opioids are opioids produced in labs from natural opiates. The most common semi-synthetic opioids are hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and heroin, which are made from morphine.
The number of deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone continued to rise with more than 36,359 overdose deaths in 2019. 2
Synthetic opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths in the United States. According to statistics, 72.9% of opioid-involved overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids. In 2019, opioids were involved in 49,860 overdose deaths or 70.6% of all drug overdose deaths. 3