What Are Synthetic Opioids? Fentanyl Explained

Over the last decade, fentanyl gained recognition as a popular topic in the news. Unfortunately, not for a good reason. Although fentanyl is used in medical settings (legally) as a pain reliever, misuse of fentanyl has become a leading cause of death among illicit drug users in recent years. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid analgesic, meaning it relieves pain. It functions similar to morphine yet is up to one-hundred times more potent and extremely dangerous when misused. For many, fentanyl addiction is quick to develop and must be treated similar to “regular” opioid addiction. When struggling with opioid addiction, the best opportunity for sobriety is to seek addiction treatment at an addiction treatment facility equipped to treat opioid addiction.


What Are Synthetic Opioids? 

When we hear about drugs like heroin, morphine, and fentanyl, they are referred to as opioids or opiates. It is important to know the difference between the two terms as they are different in some ways. An opiate is a drug that is created by the poppy plant. These drugs are derived from naturally occurring substances. Common opiate drugs include opium, morphine, and cocaine. Opioids are a substance that is either wholly or partially synthetic. This means the active ingredients are manufactured as opposed to naturally sourced. 

Synthetic opioids are a class of drugs that are either known opioids or have opioid-like effects when used. Unlike non-synthetic opioids (opiates), synthetic opioids like fentanyl are not naturally occurring, although they have effects similar to drugs derived from the opium poppy (the plant from which morphine and heroin are derived). When prescribed by a medical provider, fentanyl comes in various forms, such as skin patches, lozenges, and injections. When manufactured for illicit use, fentanyl most often comes as a powder, as eye drops, nasal sprays, or pills that look much like other prescription opioids. In some cases, fentanyl is mixed with other drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine), increasing the risk of overdose and fatality. Fentanyl is inexpensive to manufacture, making it an inexpensive way to make illicit drugs more potent. 


How Are Synthetic Opioids Different from Natural Opioids?

Whether natural or synthetic, opiate and opioid drugs have very similar impacts on the body and brain. Like other natural and partially synthetic drugs in the same class, fentanyl works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. These are the areas of the brain that control pain and emotion. After ongoing use, the brain begins to adapt to the drug, which reduces its effectiveness at mitigating pain. It also reduces the level of pleasure felt from a “normal” dose resulting in increasing doses over time. Without comprehensive addiction treatment, developing a tolerance for fentanyl will, in many cases, lead to overdose. According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatality rates related to synthetic opioids are rising. In 2018, more than 31,000 American’s died from a fentanyl overdose, an increase of ten percent from 2017 data. 

It is important to note the most significant difference between natural and synthetic opioid drugs is how they are manufactured, as discussed above. Another difference, as explained in the above paragraphs, is the form in which they are delivered.


Get Help With Addiction at Rise in Malibu

Fentanyl addiction is dangerous and potentially fatal. Due to its potency, fentanyl is highly addictive, and someone taking the drug, even when prescribed by a physician, can quickly become dependent on its effects. If you are addicted to fentanyl, it is difficult, if not impossible, to stop using without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. These can be very uncomfortable, and for many, the best way to defeat fentanyl addiction is by seeking addiction treatment. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to fentanyl (or any other opioid drug), don’t wait another day to seek treatment. Contact Rise in Malibu today to learn more about how our treatment programs can help you beat opioid addiction! 

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