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Fentanyl vs Heroin

You hear it in the news every night: the opioid epidemic is spreading across the Suncoast area. Despite these stories of loss and heartbreak, you are confident you have raised your teens right and that they know to stay away from drugs. They are focused on graduating and moving forward with their future.

fentanyl vs heroin

So, when they ask you to go to a party, you don’t hesitate to say yes. You know there will be alcohol there, but they know to call for a ride no questions asked. Just a few hours later, you get the call from your oldest, asking to be picked up. This is strange, it’s only 9 pm, and their curfew   isn’t for 3 more hours. He sounds nervous and is anxious for you to get there.

When you arrive, they both get in the car fast, saying there were needles and powders all around and they felt uncomfortable. Your son asks you what the difference between fentanyl and heroin is. Despite staying up to date, you really don’t know the answer. You reassure your sons and tell them not to worry about it, knowing that you have some research to do when you get home.

In Hillsborough County, just over 3,000 people died from an opioid-caused overdose in the first half of 2022. Clean Recovery Centers provides education for families and loved ones on topics surrounding substance use disorders. Our unique three-phase approach to treatment is like no other, and addresses all facets of addiction: physical, mental, spiritual, and social. Today, we are looking into the similarities and differences between fentanyl and heroin.

What Are Fentanyl and Heroin?

Heroin and fentanyl are both opioids and are often used recreationally. They produce euphoric effects followed by drowsiness and dizziness. Heroin is a partially synthetic opioid while fentanyl is fully synthetic. This contributes to their potency and the way they affect the body. Heroin and fentanyl have both contributed to overdose fatalities as well as non-fatal overdose incidents throughout the world.

Fentanyl and Heroin: The Similarities

As we talked about above, both heroin and fentanyl are opioids and are derived from the opium poppy plant. Common ways that heroin and fentanyl are used include injecting, snorting, swallowing, or smoking. Both substances can come in a powder form or liquid when added to water. Each substance produces the same effects, but it takes less fentanyl than heroin to produce the desired effect. Common side effects of both include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing of the face and neck
  • Rush of euphoria
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Drowsiness
  • Nodding in and out of consciousness

Both heroin and fentanyl work by affecting the central nervous system. Systems such as breathing become slowed, and can stop altogether. This results in an overdose, which can be life-threatening. Both heroin and fentanyl overdoses can be counteracted with Narcan, which should be given if ever an overdose is suspected.

As the body becomes dependent on either heroin or fentanyl, withdrawal will occur between uses. Heroin and fentanyl withdrawal can be unpleasant, and mental health may become compromised. It is always advised to seek a medical detox facility when trying to stop heroin or fentanyl use as professionals can monitor and manage your symptoms. If you are withdrawing on your own and have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, seek medical help immediately.

Fentanyl and Heroin: The Differences

Although both are opioids, fentanyl and heroin do have differences. Fentanyl is a much stronger opioid, often 50 times more potent than heroin. This makes fentanyl more likely to cause an overdose. In many instances of fentanyl, the person does not know the substance has fentanyl present. There are test strips available to check if a substance has been mixed with fentanyl. However, there are no test strips or methods to test for the presence of heroin. Typically, heroin is not used as a cutting agent whereas fentanyl is commonly seen.

Another key difference between heroin and fentanyl is that heroin is completely illicit. Most fentanyl seen on the streets is also illicit, however, there are prescription versions that are used for chronic pain management. This is typically seen in cancer patients or those recovering from extensive surgery. Prescription fentanyl comes in a variety of forms including lozenges, patches, injectable solutions, and pills. Illicit fentanyl and heroin are not regulated by any government agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Prescription fentanyl is monitored by doctors, pharmacists, and the FDA to control the amount of prescribing. This helps keep patients safe and reduces the risk of dependence.

Fentanyl and Heroin Overdoses

Overdosing on fentanyl or heroin is a medical emergency and should be treated with urgency. Opioids cause two conditions that affect vital systems: hypoxia and hypercarbia. Hypoxia is when not enough oxygen is circulating in the blood. This causes organs to shut down and potentially fail, leading to damage. Hypercarbia is when too much carbon dioxide is present in the blood. Both of these conditions lead to lasting organ damage and possible death. If an overdose of heroin, fentanyl, or both is suspected, call for help immediately. Try to keep the person conscious as you wait for help to arrive. Be honest about all substances taken so the medical professionals can treat them accordingly.

Fentanyl Addiction vs Heroin Addiction: Are They Treated the Same?

As fentanyl and heroin are both opioids, addiction treatment will be similar. However, every person is different, and no two addiction stories are the same. While therapies and skill-building classes are large components of treatment, some will respond to different therapies better than others. It is important to offer a range of therapy methods so that each person can find what works for them. Mental health also plays a role in addiction, and different conditions will require different treatments. Some may need medications while others respond to coping techniques. Recovery from fentanyl or heroin addiction will have similarities, but highlighting the differences between each person will make the most difference.

In some cases, medication may be used to treat fentanyl or heroin addiction. This is referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and often involves Suboxone or methadone. These medications work by reducing cravings and allowing the person to have a clearer mind to focus on recovery. These medications are prescribed under the care of a medical professional and are regulated by the FDA. While Suboxone and methadone are considered opioids, they are far less potent than fentanyl or heroin. They will produce some effects similar to illicit opioids but on a much smaller scale. Suboxone also has a ceiling effect, preventing the person from experiencing increased effects even when taking more.

Seeking Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Hillsborough County, FL

Opioids like fentanyl and heroin can seem to take over your life, often before you realize it. Living in fear of possibly overdosing is no way to get through life. Thankfully, treatment for opioid addiction is out there and is the first step toward a new life. Opioid detox can be uncomfortable, but professionals will be there every step of the way to ensure your safety. After detox is complete, therapy and coping skill classes will begin. These will help you understand the root causes of your addiction and provide you with the tools needed for a successful recovery. Fentanyl and heroin addiction do not have to be permanent, all it takes is the first step today.

Clean Recovery Centers is here to guide you through leaving opioids behind and beginning your recovery. Each of our locations offers housing that has been certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR). You will never have to worry about a safe place to stay while you heal your body and mind. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our opioid addiction treatment.

Get Clean. Live Clean. Stay Clean.

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