You grew up knowing certain things about the substances circulating throughout your local Appalachian streets. Your dad had taken oxycodone, fentanyl, and many other forms of pain pills just to manage his constant back pain. After years of working in factories and mines, his body was giving out, but he knew he had to work to support your mom and siblings.
Your dad still always managed to get to work, accomplish the tasks he needed, and be around when you or your siblings needed help. But you knew the substances he was taking were not always obtained from a doctor, and you could see a difference in your dad’s behaviors as he switched between different substances from different sources. You wondered why his pain would vary between each medication, and how some seemed to last longer than others. Are street versions of substances stronger or better than those from a doctor? What are the differences between fentanyl and oxycodone?
In 2021, 56.6 per 100,000 residents in Tennessee experienced a fatal drug overdose. ReVIDA® Recovery has been one of the leading providers of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) throughout the Appalachian area and has worked to help reduce the number of fatal overdoses in our state. We believe MAT is a helpful tool in our outpatient program and have seen the positive results firsthand. In today’s blog, we will be looking at the differences between fentanyl and oxycodone.
Table of Contents
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid, 100 times more potent than morphine, that has many pharmaceutical benefits. Prescription fentanyl is often found in a lozenge, film, chewable tablet, or tablet for swallowing. Typically, this type of fentanyl is used in cases of extreme pain, such as cancer patients. It can only be prescribed by a doctor, and prescription fentanyl has to follow all Food and Drug Administration regulations.
Illicit fentanyl is made in illegal labs and can come in liquid or powder form. This type of fentanyl is seen most often in accidental overdoses. Dealers will add fentanyl to other substances such as cocaine, heroin, and meth. This increases the effects of the substances at an effective cost, making the product cheaper to allow for higher profit margins.
Fentanyl works by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. It interferes with the systems that control pain and emotions. When the body becomes used to having fentanyl in the system, it requires more to achieve the same effects. Even when followed under a doctor’s direction, dependence can still develop. If dependence is ever a concern, talk with your doctor about what other steps can be taken.
Why Do People Take Fentanyl?
As we discussed above, prescription fentanyl can be used in cases of extreme pain. Late-stage cancer patients and post-surgery patients can be prescribed fentanyl for fast-acting pain relief. Because of FDA regulations, the amount of fentanyl prescribed and the dosage amount are monitored to ensure misuse does not happen.
With illicit fentanyl, there are two main reasons someone may take it. The person may know that they are taking fentanyl, and continue to use the same dealer to get the “stronger” product. Other times, the person does not know they have taken fentanyl as it is undetectable to the naked eye. The powder or liquid can be pressed into pills that are made to look like other substances. The only way to confirm the presence of fentanyl is with fentanyl test strips.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that is often the generic name for OxyContin®. It is only available by a prescription from a doctor and is often prescribed for instances of moderate to severe pain. Because it is an opioid, it creates the same type of effects within the brain and body as morphine or heroin. Oxycodone can lead to dependence because of this, as tolerance increases, the body will require more to have the same effects.
Why Do People Take Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is often prescribed for injuries, post-surgery pain management, cancer patients, and long-term conditions such as arthritis. Even when taking oxycodone as directed, dependence can still form. Those who have a history of substance or opioid use disorders should always consult their doctor before taking this medication.
Oxycodone can be taken recreationally, and often those who do so do not have a prescription. The dosage and amount they take can vary depending on where they purchase it from. This can lead to a sporadic pattern of when the person takes oxycodone.
What Are the Differences Between Fentanyl and Oxycodone?
Although fentanyl and oxycodone are both opioids, they have different properties between them. One of the biggest differences is the potency of the two substances. Oxycodone is only 1.5 times stronger than morphine, whereas fentanyl is around 100 times more potent. This makes fentanyl more likely to cause an overdose, however, it is possible to overdose by taking too much oxycodone at once.
Another difference is how fast the effects of each can be felt, as well as how long the effects last. Prescription fentanyl effects can be immediate or be felt in a few minutes, depending on how it was taken, and has a half-life of around 2-4 hours. However, fentanyl transdermal patches have a slow onset of around 6 hours and a half-life of 20-27 hours.
Oxycodone comes in immediate-release and controlled-release tablets. The effects of immediate-release tablets can be felt in as little as 10 minutes and have a half-life of 2-4 hours. The controlled-release tablets are designed to provide pain relief for a longer duration, making their half-life closer to 5-6 hours. The effects can still be felt in around 15 minutes.
Illicit fentanyl’s effects can be felt almost immediately if injected but can take 5-15 minutes when taken other ways (such as snorting or swallowing). Its half-life can vary depending on potency and manufacturing methods. Generally, illicit fentanyl has a half-life of 3-7 hours.
Lastly, oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid while fentanyl is a full-synthetic opioid. Oxycodone still contains natural derivatives from the poppy plant, similar to morphine. Fentanyl is devoid of any trace of the poppy plant or any natural opiates.
Are The Similarities Between The Two?
Both fentanyl and oxycodone are opioids and create similar side effects. These can include:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Mood swings
Because the body can become dependent on both of these substances, withdrawal will set in when use stops. Fentanyl is more potent and can cause withdrawal to set in sooner, but stopping both substances suddenly with cause symptoms. There is also a risk of an overdose with both substances. When the brain becomes overwhelmed with the amount taken, breathing can slow to a stop. This is more common with fentanyl, but it is possible with oxycodone as well.
Find Help for Opioid Use Disorder in Johnson City, TN
Facing an opioid use disorder can be a scary thought, especially if you have been using different types. Whether you are looking to recover from fentanyl addiction, oxycodone addiction treatment, or just help for substance use in general, there are resources out there. Finding a program that treats you with the respect and care you deserve will be the key to kicking off your recovery success. With therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and a strong support system, you can leave your opioid use disorder behind and find your new life.
At ReVIDA® Recovery, we don’t see you as anything other than a person asking for help. Our dedicated team works to empower you and lead you in the right direction of reclaiming your life from opioids. We accept Medicaid and offer same-day appointments, so nothing is holding you back from taking the first step to recovery. Call us today at 423-631-0432 to learn more about our flexible program.