What Makes Fentanyl Different from Other Opioids?

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Created On: Monday, 21, October 2019
Modified On: Saturday, 16, November 2019

There are differences and similarities between fentanyl and other opioids.  Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin and fentanyl are both addictive opioids.  The drugs bind with the opioid receptors in the brain reducing pain.  Furthermore, both drugs increase and elevate the sensation of pleasure and relaxation.  Fentanyl is far more potent than heroin or morphine, and both are fast-acting and lethal.  The primary difference between fentanyl and other opioids is the potency.  NIDA warns that fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.  Fentanyl is synthetically made in a lab with varying potencies.  And morphine is an opiate found naturally in several plants.  Heroin is derived from morphine and is an illegal drug throughout the United States.

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The chemical structure of fentanyl is slightly different from heroin.  Fentanyl is used medically today as a powerful pain reliever.  And pharmaceutical fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency.  Whereas heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA and is not accepted for medical uses.  Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is manufactured in small labs primarily in China.  Fentanyl is cheaper and easier to obtain than heroin and is used as a cutting agent or filler for heroin.  Heroin is typically injected, smoked, or snorted when it is abused.  Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin and even .25 milligrams is lethal.

Prescription fentanyl comes as lozenges, buccal and sublingual tablets, nasal or oral sprays, an injectable, and in a transdermal patch.  All the prescription methods of fentanyl are abused.  Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is made into pills or as a powder.  The pills are made to look like other opioids and the powder can be put on blotter paper.  Fentanyl pills can be crushed and snorted, injected, and of course, ingested.  Fentanyl and other opioids cause long-term damage.  This is damage to the respiratory and cardiovascular system and brain.  The brain damage can lead to cognitive defects among other problems.