difference between fentanyl and heroin

difference between fentanyl and heroin

George was at a local bar on a Friday night. He had injected heroin earlier that day before he went to work. He was an electrician, and whatever money he made, he used to buy heroin. He felt he was always desperate for something to help ease the cravings and agitation that he was feeling. But lately, it seemed like heroin just wasn’t doing the trick.

George felt that heroin was starting to lose its effect on him. He felt more anxiety and restlessness than calm and euphoria. It was as if he needed more and more heroin each time he took it. It was never enough to last more than a few hours, making his job harder to manage.

His friend joined him at a table in the corner and offered him fentanyl. He said it was more potent and better than anything heroin could give him. He also mentioned that fentanyl was cheaper to get ahold of. If fentanyl was more potent and cheaper, he wondered why he hadn’t tried it sooner. He was ready to try it now.

George had thought about getting help for heroin use, but he always figured he could never afford it. He could barely afford heroin, and he was on Medicaid. To get treatment, George felt he would lose everything – including his job. In 2021, in Washington County, TN, 58 people died of an overdose, and 16% of those in that county are below the poverty line. Many of them are on Medicaid. Using opioids can result in rising costs, especially if you experience an overdose. At ReVIDA® Recovery, we accept Medicaid so you can focus on your recovery instead of worrying about being unable to afford treatment.

People like George build up a tolerance quickly to opioids like heroin, which might cause them to try fentanyl as a replacement. But fentanyl holds many secrets, including that it’s 50-100x more potent and dangerous. When discussing heroin vs. fentanyl, there are a few essential things to remember. That’s what we’re discussing today.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It can be prescribed or used illicitly. When people use it medically, it treats severe pain after surgery. In prescription form, it can be known as Actiq® (fentanyl citrate) or Duragesic® (fentanyl transdermal system) and can be found as a shot, lozenge, or patch. When used illicitly, it takes the form of a powder and is often put into eye droppers or pills resembling other medications. Dealers commonly mix fentanyl with other substances, such as heroin, to create a more substantial effect. It also makes the substance stronger and increases the supply of the product.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid made from morphine. It can appear as a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance called black tar heroin. It is 100% illegal to possess heroin in all forms, and it is twice as potent as morphine. People who use heroin will snort, smoke, sniff, or inject heroin. People who use heroin also have an increased risk of developing HIV and hepatitis.

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Dependence on Heroin Vs Fentanyl

When people use heroin, it enters the brain and attaches to opioid receptors. This will give people a “rush” that encourages them to continue to use heroin to get the same effects. After the “rush,” people will feel tired for several hours. They might have clouded mental function and slowed breathing. Heroin also reinforces the continuation of use by controlling emotions and blocking pain messages. People who have become dependent on heroin will experience heroin withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms peak in intensity within 72 hours but can linger for several weeks. Symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Intense cravings

Because of the strength of fentanyl, it can lead to people developing a dependence on it. Like heroin, it can lead to people having fentanyl withdrawal symptoms when a person stops their use of fentanyl. While these symptoms are not typically life-threatening, they are very uncomfortable and can have complications. This is why it is essential to have a medical professional monitor you as you are withdrawing. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Severe cravings
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold flashes
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Muscle pain
  • Sleep problems

Recovery from fentanyl addiction and heroin addiction is possible. It might seem like an uphill battle at first, but it is entirely possible to achieve recovery.

The Side Effects of Heroin vs. Fentanyl

Heroin and fentanyl side effects can appear similar. They both control the way the brain controls pain and emotions, leading to them both bringing a sense of euphoria. But they can also bring other side effects.

Fentanyl can have several side effects. One of those side effects is that there is an increased risk of overdose, especially if it is combined with other substances. Side effects of an overdose can include constricted pupils and respiratory depression. Some people might also experience relaxation or sedation from fentanyl, while others experience confusion and dizziness. People might also experience nausea or urinary retention.

Like fentanyl, heroin can also have side effects. These can include dry mouth or a heavy arm and leg feeling. Others might have clouded mental functioning or severe itching. Some people might have warm skin, abscesses, or collapsed veins. While concerns such as insomnia or depression might be prevalent. People might also report stomach cramping.

With both substances, heroin and fentanyl, overdose is possible. An overdose of any kind is a medical emergency. 911 needs to be called immediately. In Tennessee, Narcan® (naloxone) is available with or without a prescription and is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Narcan® (naloxone) will not harm anyone if they are not experiencing an opioid overdose. If you or someone you love uses heroin or fentanyl, it is recommended that you keep Narcan® (naloxone) on hand. Symptoms of an overdose can include:

  • Small pupils
  • Shallow breathing
  • Limp body
  • Cold skin
  • Faint heartbeat
  • Purple lips
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Choking

Signs of Heroin vs. Fentanyl Disorders

Both heroin and fentanyl use disorders have similar signs. If you suspect a loved one is using fentanyl or heroin, they might have burnt spoons, syringes, missing shoelaces, or small bags with powder. They might also have behavioral signs, including a change in attitude or personality. Changes in hobbies and sports may happen. Grades and work performance might decrease. They might also avoid family or friends, including isolation and secretive behavior.

Physical signs might also be present in those using heroin and fentanyl. One such sign is a decreased breathing rate. They might be drowsy and have intense flu-like symptoms. Others will lose or increase their appetite, which can lead to weight loss or gain. If people inject either substance, they might wear long sleeves or hide their arms.

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Get Treatment For Fentanyl And Heroin Use Disorders Today!

Seeking recovery from fentanyl and heroin can be difficult, and it might seem overwhelming right now. The cravings and withdrawal symptoms caused by opioid use disorders are very difficult to manage alone, and it’s not always safe. This is why ReVIDA® Recovery offers same-day appointments to get the help you need to reclaim your life today. We are located throughout Tennessee and Virginia. For more information on our fentanyl and heroin use treatment options, or if you are ready to start your treatment today, call us at 423-631-0432.

Signs Suboxone® Dose Is Too Low


How is fentanyl an opioid?

Opioids are a type of substance that is used for pain relief. It can be used for surgery, cancer, and chronic pain. This is done by attaching itself to the body’s opioid receptors in the brain and can control pain and emotions. Often, the brain will become less sensitive to opioids, leading people to want to take more to get the same effect. Fentanyl works in this same way.

Do opioids include heroin and fentanyl?

There are several types of opioids that people might take. These include heroin and fentanyl. It also includes prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin® (oxycodone), Vicodin® (hydrocodone), morphine, and codeine.

Is fentanyl 100 times stronger than heroin?

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin but 100 times stronger than morphine. Heroin is twice as potent as morphine.