Both alike and different in many ways, fentanyl and heroin, play a major role in the world of addiction. They are at the top of the list of most deadly and addictive substances. The issue of fentanyl vs. heroin is very common within the world of substance abuse, addiction, and rehabilitation treatment.
Heroin and fentanyl are somehow very similar and different at the same time. While both are dangerous substances, which makes them the same makes them very different as well. Believe it or not, a doctor legally prescribes one. The other is illegal to have in your possession for any reason. Ironically, however, they can often produce the same reaction when used.
Knowing the difference between them, how they are used, and what they do to the body provides insight on how addiction can be developed. Additionally, being aware of how deadly each one can be could combat the number of lethal overdoses being seen lately.
The more we understand about each drug individually, provides insight on how to treat addictions to them. While fentanyl and heroin are both highly toxic, the difference in dosage can also affect the outcome of using each drug. Drug rehabs can then use discretion when administering care or medication to assist with detox for the best possible outcome.
Heroin vs. Fentanyl: Alike in More Ways than One
Knowing how fentanyl and heroin are alike is important in understanding how one can be mistaken or traded for another. Many times, people who are addicted to heroin will consider using fentanyl when their usual supply is unavailable. This can also go the other way around. In order to compare one to the other, in the great debate of fentanyl vs. heroin, knowing what they have in common is critical.
First and foremost, both drugs can and are often obtained for use illegally. Both are highly active in the world of illegal drugs. Fentanyl, however, can be acquired via means of prescription. This drug is used to treat pain in extreme circumstances.
How Morphine Plays a Role
A long time ago, before synthetic opiates, morphine (which is used to make heroin) was the common treatment for pain. However, there was much debate on the negative impact it had versus the positive effect on chronic pain. In an attempt to continue to provide patients with effective pain-relieving medication, there was a need for an alternative. Now, doctors prescribe other opiate-based medications, like fentanyl.
Unfortunately, though the switch has been made, the abuse and addiction rates only continue to grow. The number of people that abuse and misuse fentanyl makes it just as high on the list as heroin. Oftentimes, the intensity of fentanyl addiction requires more focused inpatient programs during rehabilitation. Whether used as prescribed or not, rehabilitation for addiction is especially important as the mortality numbers continue to increase.
Fentanyl and Heroin Share a Common Theme
Both heroin and fentanyl are classified as opiates. Opiates are medically used to treat pain. The use of fentanyl is deemed medically necessary when a person no longer gets relief or develops a tolerance to certain medications. This is typically seen in cases where a person has already been administered lower doses of morphine or opiate pain killers.
Regardless of why morphine is key in creating both fentanyl and heroin. It is manipulated using opium poppy, which is grown, harvested, and altered for higher potency.
As far as medicinal opium is concerned, the harvesting of this plant largely takes place in places such as Turkey, Australia, and India. While opium poppy is widely used in the pharmaceutical world, its quality is carefully controlled when derived from these locations.
However, they are not the only players involved with the substance. Places such as Columbia, Burma, and Afghanistan are known for the illegal distribution of opium-derived drugs.
The effects of illegally obtaining and abusing either fentanyl or heroin are unpredictable. There is just no real way to tell how powerful or dangerous these drugs will be, and it varies by batch.
People can be under the impression that because they have used once with no bad effects, that they will never have a bad reaction. Because of the inability to regulate what comes from where the risk of deadly overdose is, therefore increased. Whether it is illegal fentanyl or heroin, either of them can be made each time differently.
Additionally, each individual that goes through detox should be sure to discuss the safest options for them. Just as some drugs are more powerful, some addictions require different levels of rehab care.
Fentanyl vs Heroin: Addiction Requires Treatment
The most important factor to consider that fentanyl and heroin have in common is that they are both highly addictive. When something is considered addictive, they are able to change the way the brain tells the body to function. Fentanyl and heroin both work by binding to the opiate receptor system in your body.
When this happens, there is a sense of relief, or even euphoria, in the place where pain once was. When a chemical is able to do this as quickly as either of these substances, addiction may become harder to manage. For many, balancing the need for pain relief can be a stressful decision to make, even if it is a matter of life and death.
Feeling pain is actually an important warning sign, signaling that there is something wrong within the body. When it is covered up by using drugs illegally, the outcome is even more catastrophic. Now, not only can the use of an unregulated substance lead to death by overdose, the underlying cause for pain remains. Chronic pain is almost always considered unpleasant and unwanted. That, combined with the overwhelming availability of both fentanyl and heroin, is a recipe for drug abuse and addiction.
The Difference: Fentanyl VS Heroin
Though it may seem from the similarities that fentanyl and heroin are the same, this is not the case. There are many ways in which they are different, and the differences are dangerous. What is considered a deadly dose of each is dramatically different, and may even come as a shock.
However, just because they are different, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one leads to higher rates of addiction than the other. Heroin and fentanyl both have the potential for abuse, addiction, overdose, and death.
A Closer Look at Heroin
Heroin was created using morphine. However, it is a bit further down the line in terms of chemical processing. This means that it is manipulated more to change it from its original state. Both morphine and heroin are created using opium poppy seeds.
If you have ever heard someone say that you can’t eat a poppy seed bagel before you get a drug test, this is why. Though it would take more than a single bite at breakfast, it is much more than just theory. Many researchers even agree that it could cause a drug test to read positive for certain drugs.
At one time, morphine was even considered a legal substance and sold over the counter. Throughout history, you would be able to find it in all sorts of things. Morphine was a key ingredient in cough and cold medicine often recommended by doctors.
Although morphine was pulled back and reclassified and a controlled substance, hospitals and doctors still use it today, especially in emergency situations. Morphine is still considered for treatment when used under the care of a physician.
History of Heroin and Morphine
Heroin, morphine’s cousin, was made illegal when the war on drugs began in 1971. Though morphine and heroin are considered extremely similar, no acceptable medical use has ever been approved in the United States. However, in the 1960s in America, over two million people were already addicted.
Morphine and heroin dens used to be popular in large cities, and especially well-known among the elites. Heroin was considered all the rage in the US, even as early as the mid-1800s. This was likely due to how much was still unknown about its danger back then.
Still today, like morphine, heroin can be physically consumed in several ways, adding to its popularity. Heroin can be self-administered by ingesting orally, snorting, injecting, and smoking.
The difference today is that the only way to obtain heroin is illegally off the street. You can also obtain morphine this way; however, morphine can still be prescribed through a physician. These drugs can be mixed with several other substances that will either render them less potent or more potent. An overdose of heroin is possible no matter how it is used, the most deadly outcome when it is mixed with fentanyl.
Fentanyl Dramatically Increases Overdose Rates
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and is also considered the most powerful one available. Its chemical structure is close to the structure of morphine and has very similar effects. However, fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
The reason for its overwhelming potency and high risk for deadly overdose is because it was engineered that way. The reason that fentanyl was created was its ability to relieve chronic pain—specifically, persistent pain in patients who have built up a tolerance to other opiates. In recent years, it has also become more popular among those that already battle an addiction to other drugs.
Compared to that of morphine and heroin, the amount of fentanyl that can cause a person to overdose is incredibly small. The lethal dose of heroin is said to be about 30 milligrams. Fentanyl, however, is able to kill an average-sized adult male when used in the amount of only a 3-milligram dose. When illegally acquired, the exact potency is unable to measure and, therefore, much easier to overdose on in comparison.
Doctors currently prescribe fentanyl to people that have severe and chronic pain where regular pain killers will not work. People prescribed this drug are often burdened with a terminal illness as well. While fentanyl is beneficial in these types of cases, illegal abuse of this drug has proven to have very deadly outcomes.
Fentanyl Comes in Different Forms
Many medications that are abused and lead to addiction were originally created to help people. Fentanyl is one of those drugs. When produced and administered legally, there are five different methods of administration as of today.
Five medical options for fentanyl are:
- Lozenge to be placed in the mouth, sometimes in the form of a lollipop
- Ingestible oral tablet
- Spray designed to be taken orally
- Through IV injection
- A patch to be placed on the skin
Keep in mind, though fentanyl is measurable within these forms, it is still possible to consume too much. Even with doctors’ orders, this drug is still highly addictive and often abused.
Alternatively, when fentanyl is derived illegally, it can be found in several forms. Some states the drug is illegally distributed in are:
- Infused onto blotter paper
- Pressed into oral tablets
- Ground into powder
Every method of illegal fentanyl is considered dangerous to a higher degree, or especially deadly. Perhaps even the biggest problem of them all is when the powdered form is used to lace other drugs such as heroin.
More and more often, heroin and cocaine users are coming into contact with their drugs unknowingly laced with fentanyl. Due to fentanyl being so incredibly more potent, if an addict is unaware, the results are life-threatening.
The potency of fentanyl mixed with other drugs is even more likely to be resistant to standard Narcan doses. Especially in recent years, the mixture is leading to a profound increase in overdose-related deaths among active addicts.
Drug dealers are using fentanyl in other drugs, one way or another. It may be to increase the effects of another drug or to reduce the price and turn a higher profit. It could even be to get addicts to come back to them specifically, unaware of what it is they are craving. Either way, street sellers are implementing this method more and more often, leading to more and more deadly overdoses.
Fentanyl vs. Heroin: Identifying an Overdose
If you believe that someone has overdosed on fentanyl, heroin, or other drugs, you should call for help immediately. Realistically, you may not have much time. First respondents can administer a drug that will immediately stop the interaction and save the person’s life.
If help arrives soon enough, there is a better outlook for survival. This is especially true in situations where different drugs are mixed, or when there is a significant risk of trauma.
The following signs and symptoms may indicate the occurrence of an overdose:
- Shallow breathing
- Blue lips and fingers
- Clammy skin
Narcan, the drug known as the reversal of overdoses, can be administered as long as you know the person was not doing any other drugs or drinking. At the very least, this can help save a life.
However, regardless of whether you have given them Narcan or not, you will want to be sure the person gets medical help. Unfortunately, even those that can help often do not. Many fear the consequences and elect to turn a blind eye instead of making that life-saving call.
Professionals are trained for these types of circumstances. Don’t wait to make the call that could save a life. Don’t let addiction be the reason your life’s on the line. No matter what type of addiction has found a way into your life, know that it is possible to turn your life around with rehab.
Rehabilitation Treatment for Any Addiction
There is an assortment of drug addiction treatment programs available to those that suffer daily because of their addiction. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment centers and their team have helped so many overcome the battle with their substance abuse.
Reach out today to get more information on LA Detox locations and programs designed to help you take your life back. Drugs are becoming more and more dangerous by the minute. Because of that, there isn’t a second to waste.