The Difference Between Fentanyl and Heroin
The Recent History of Heroin Addiction
Prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Morphine, and Demerol have been used and abused by millions of people over the past few decades. When the high from these medications stopped being enough, people started turning to heroin for a better high, sometimes at a better value, but at a larger risk.
Heroin is an opioid drug and is from the same family as most prescription painkillers. It is formulated as a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Heroin is injected, snorted, sniffed, or smoked. It is also commonly mixed with other substances to obtain the desired effect.
This drug is dangerous and it affects people by reducing respiratory and heart rate, increasing sleepiness and causing a feeling of euphoria. It is extremely addicting, and those who use heroin even once or twice often find themselves craving the substance and wanting another high.
Heroin Addiction and Overdose
Heroin has become the drug of choice among people in inner cities and suburbs, the rich and the poor, the young and the old alike. Heroin is taking lives at an astounding rate, because of its potency and unpredictability of quality and purity.
Heroin is indeed a dangerous drug. However, the drug fentanyl has emerged on the streets in the last five years and has had even more severe impacts on communities than prescription painkillers and heroin.
Dangers of Fentanyl
Fentanyl is an opioid in the same family of drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers, but it has proven to be so much more dangerous. According to the DEA, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 40 to 50 times more potent than heroin. To put this into perspective, a lethal dose of heroin is equivalent to about 30 milligrams, while a 3-milligram dose of fentanyl is enough to kill an average sized man.
Fentanyl has been used in hospitals and medical clinics for decades now, but the street form of the drug is much different. Street fentanyl comes in a powder form, pill, or blotter paper that is placed under the tongue.
Like heroin, fentanyl causes intense feelings of euphoria right after use, and slows breathing and heart rate, causes extreme drowsiness, and can cause seizures and death. Fentanyl is so dangerous because many people don’t realize how potent it really is, or how easy it is to overdose on this drug. Many other people are put in danger because fentanyl is often mixed in with other drugs, including heroin, without the user knowing, creating a deadly mix.
Because of the potency of fentanyl, experts believe it might take more of the drug Narcan to reverse an overdose. Narcan has saved thousands of lives of those who have overdosed on heroin and other opioids by reversing the effects of these drugs. However, more lives will be lost in the next several years if Narcan is found to be ineffective for fentanyl overdose.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic opioids have caused devastating effects in communities across America:
- In 2016, synthetic opioids (primarily illegal fentanyl) passed prescription opioids as the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States.
- In 2016, synthetic opioids were involved in nearly 50% (19,413) of opioid-related deaths, up from 14% (3,007) in 2010.
- In 2016, 42,249 drug overdose deaths involved opioids. Of those, 45.9% involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, doubled from 2015 to 2016.
- Since 2013, the number of overdose deaths associated with fentanyl and similar drugs has grown to more than 28,000, from 3,000. Deaths involving fentanyl increased more than 45 percent in 2017 alone.
- Fentanyl is now the most commonly used drug involved in drug overdoses, according to a new government report.
- The rate of drug overdoses involving fentanyl skyrocketed by about 113% each year from 2013 through 2016.
- According to an analysis of death certificates for drug overdose deaths between 2011 and 2016, fentanyl was involved in nearly 29% of all overdose deaths in 2016. In 2011, fentanyl was involved in just 4% of all drug fatalities.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
The good news is there is a treatment for fentanyl addiction, just as there is for heroin and other prescription opioids. Treatment involves first of all detoxification from the substance and then going through intense psychotherapy and rehab to retrain the mind and body to function without the substance.
Withdrawal from fentanyl causes side effects similar to the flu, with body aches and pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache being the main symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms usually last a few days to a week, and can often be managed with opioid replacement medication, supportive care, and plenty of rest.
Once the physical aspect of detox is complete, the individual should participate in therapy and counseling in order to help them understand their addiction and develop ways to remain sober even when faced with temptations to use. Intense psychotherapy as well as group therapy sessions, help individuals get to the heart of their addiction and address the factors that perpetuate the disease.
Long-term care is important for sustained recovery from fentanyl or heroin addiction because it provides structure, accountability, and motivation for the person to remain sober. Support groups, ongoing therapy, and participation with alumni activities all help individuals who were once addicted to opioids establish a life of sobriety.
The Ridge is a residential treatment facility located just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. We specialize in opioid addiction treatment, and our experienced staff is able to administer medications that help with opioid withdrawal symptoms. Our treatment center is situated on 51 beautiful acres that provide access to nature and recreational activities. Our on-site chefs prepare nutritious meals that are conducive to healing of the body and mind, and we promote a whole being treatment program that is individualized to meet each client’s needs.
If you or a loved one is in need of treatment for heroin or fentanyl addiction, don’t hesitate to get help. Each moment can mean the difference between life and death. Our compassionate staff will guide you through the recovery process and will work with you and your loved ones to create a plan that is effective for your needs. Contact us today to learn more.