Fentanyl vs Heroin: What You Should Know

What is fentanyl? 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, that is typically used for severe pain treatment and management for patients who are physically tolerant to other opioids. 

In prescription form, fentanyl is known by brand names such as Duragesic®, Sublimaze® and Actiq®. In its prescribed form, it comes in transdermal patches and lozenges. However, at this point in time, fentanyl is frequently manufactured illegally and sold as an illicit drug known for its heroin-like effects. Other than ‘fentanyl,’ the illegal substance is also known as China White, China Girl, Jackpot, and Apache. It typically comes in the form of a powder, but is also sold on blotter paper and in pill form. 

What is heroin? 

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance derived from the seed pods of certain poppy plants. 

Roughly five stronger than morphine, heroin generally comes in the form of white or brown powder. It can present as a black sticky substance, known as black tar heroin. It can be injected, snorted, or smoked. Common names for heroin include Big H, Horse, Smack, and Hell Dust. 

Fentanyl vs Heroin: What are the similarities? 

Fentanyl and heroin are both highly addictive opioid drugs. To the naked eye, fentanyl and heroin can look virtually identical in the form of white powder. Fentanyl and heroin both bind to pain receptors in the brain, leading users to experience effects such as short-term euphoria and a deep state of relaxation. 

However, fentanyl and heroin also share many of the same dangerous, life-threatening effects, including: 

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Sedation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Respiratory failure
  • Coma
  • Death

Fentanyl vs Heroin: What are the differences? 

Unlike fentanyl’s classification as a Schedule II substance, heroin is classified as a Schedule I substance. Schedule I substances are determined to be illegal drugs with no accepted medical use. Because of differences in their chemical composition, fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. 

Despite their identical appearance, fentanyl is much less expensive. Heroin is often mixed or cut with fentanyl, creating a more powerful drug than an individual may realize, which can quickly lead to an overdose. 

As depicted in the chart above, from 1999 to 2010, overdose deaths from heroin and synthetic opioids—mainly fentanyl—were close in number and steadily under 5,000 per year. From 2011 to 2015, deaths from heroin overdoses began to increase rapidly, and were actually more common than those from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. However, beginning in 2015, deaths from fentanyl overdoses began to increase exponentially, while deaths from heroin overdoses began to slightly decline. 


How Oasis Recovery helps individuals recover from addiction to fentanyl and heroin 

Oasis Recovery Center, located in the heart of Asheville, North Carolina, has helped hundreds of individuals reclaim their lives from the grips of addiction. 

Our comprehensive addiction treatment programs incorporate everything from medication-assisted treatment to psychotherapy with options such as EMDR to group activities and processing, adventure therapy, equine therapy, art therapy, and a variety of mindfulness-based holistic healing modalities including acupuncture, qi gong, yoga, meditation, and more. Clients at Oasis are supported through every step of their healing journey with our unique, individualized, impactful recovery programs. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with fentanyl, heroin, or addiction to other substances, Oasis Recovery is here to help. Reach out to us today at (828) 330-9497  or get in touch through our online contact form for more information about addiction treatment and recovery at Oasis. 


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