You’ve worked a lot of jobs to make ends meet, construction, factory work, and some farm work. Each year as you get older, it seems you sustain another injury. You have broken several bones, torn ligaments, and had many days where ibuprofen just wasn’t enough. But you pushed on as you had a family to provide for.
On a normal Tuesday at your construction job, a freak accident happens with the scaffolding, sending you three stories to the ground. When you realize what happened, the pain in your leg hits you like a ton of bricks. It has to be broken as you can’t move without shooting, intense agony radiating throughout your body. When help arrives, they inform you they will be giving you a shot of fentanyl to help with the pain during transport. Your eyes go wide as you have seen the news stories – fentanyl is dangerous! The EMT informs you that this is medicinal fentanyl that is approved and regulated and that there is nothing to worry about. Still unsure, you ask if they can give you something else. They reach in their bag and inform you they will give you morphine instead. Thank goodness, it is a name you know and have taken before. But what is the difference between fentanyl and morphine anyway?
A 2022 report found that 39 drug-related deaths involved morphine in Knox County. This was the first time since 2018 that a pain medication made this list. At ReVIDA® Recovery, we have seen many develop dependence while taking medications as prescribed. It can be scary to think you may need help to stop, and waiting for an appointment can take too long. We offer same-day appointments so you can get started when you want to. Today’s blog will highlight the similarities and differences between fentanyl and morphine.
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What Is Fentanyl Used For?
Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin. In medical scenarios, fentanyl serves different purposes. It can come in patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, and tablets. Most commonly, prescription fentanyl is used to treat chronic pain in cancer patients. It can also be used for pain after major surgery. Lastly, fentanyl is sometimes paired with anesthesia to help the anesthetic work better.
In all of these instances, fentanyl has been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and is prescribed by a licensed medical professional. The doctor will use his discretion and expertise to advise if fentanyl is the proper medication for the circumstance, and will order a prescription based on that need. They will closely monitor side effects, the effectiveness of the dose, and be able to address any concerns you have. Because fentanyl is so heavily regulated, only the doctor is able to change dosing and how long you take the prescription.
On the other hand, illicit fentanyl is responsible for flooding news stories of overdoses. Fentanyl that is obtained on the streets has been synthesized illegally, meaning there is no regulation or testing of the final product. It comes in powder or liquid form, and as little as a grain of salt can be lethal. There is no medicinal purpose for illicit fentanyl. Those who are taking it are doing so for the euphoric effects.
What Is Morphine Used For?
Morphine is a naturally occurring opioid derived from the opium poppy plant. It has been used in clinical medicine for over 200 years and has pain-relieving properties. Typically, morphine is prescribed for pain from surgery, injuries, or managing certain heart conditions. Because it is part of the opioid family, it is regulated and is only available by prescription. However, it has been linked to illicit use and is known to cause dependence.
Similarities Of Fentanyl And Morphine
Fentanyl and morphine share many similarities. Both substances are opioids, which means they both come from the poppy plant. Because they are considered narcotics, fentanyl and morphine are highly regulated by doctors, pharmacists, medical professionals, and government agencies like the FDA. Both are used to treat pain on a higher scale than other opiates, and are often used for postoperative cases.
Being opioids, both fentanyl and morphine carry the risk of dependence, even when monitored in a medical setting. Opioids work by binding to the receptors in the brain and central nervous system. These opioid receptors control pain and pleasure, releasing a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. Once that feeling wears off, drowsiness begins and the person tends to fall asleep. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to the amount of morphine or fentanyl in the system, and it will take more to achieve the same results. This is where your doctor will help manage your dose and keep you at a level that is safe for you and manages your pain.
With the illicit use of fentanyl and morphine, there is no one there to manage your dosage. You are free to take as much or as little as you would like at any time. This makes both fentanyl and morphine dangerous as they can cause overdoses. Opioid overdoses occur when too much is taken at one time. The central nervous system slows and breathing can stop, causing a coma or death.
Withdrawal symptoms also are common with both fentanyl and morphine use. When the body has not had either opioid for some time, it begins to send signals that it needs it. This is in the form of withdrawal symptoms, and they can range in severity. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Watery nose and eyes
Fentanyl And Morphine: What’s The Difference?
Despite both being opioids, fentanyl and morphine have differences. Morphine is a naturally occurring opioid, meaning it has opium plant properties in it. Fentanyl is fully synthetic, and no longer has any trace of the opium plant. Because of this, the potency is different between the two. The half-life of the substances is also different – morphine is 2-4 hours while fentanyl is 3-7 hours.
This is a key difference between morphine and fentanyl as it describes their lipid solubility. Morphine takes a longer time to cross the blood-brain barrier. Because of this, morphine is described as a “slow in, slow out” substance. Morphine is slower to enter the brain and slower to exit, creating more long-term effects. Fentanyl on the other hand crosses the blood-brain barrier more rapidly, making it a “fast in, fast out” substance. This means fentanyl is faster acting but short-term.
Is Fentanyl Stronger Than Morphine?
The short answer is yes, fentanyl is stronger than morphine. When describing substances, the strength is referred to as potency. Both prescription and illicit fentanyl are 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Accidental overdoses are common with fentanyl because of the potency, and also due to the person not knowing the substance has fentanyl in it. Morphine can still cause an overdose, but it will take a higher amount than it would for fentanyl.
Despite the difference in strength, studies have been comparing the use of fentanyl and morphine in post-operative patients. One study measured pain levels every five minutes after administering fentanyl to some patients and morphine to others. They continued to measure the amount of time it took for pain to go from severe to mild. The study concluded that there were no significant differences between morphine and fentanyl in the reduction of pain. Both showed equally effective and there were no significant differences in side effects. This shows that when under the proper supervision and licensure, fentanyl and morphine do serve a purpose.
Getting Help For Fentanyl And Opioid Use Disorder In Knox County, Tennessee
Whether taking fentanyl or morphine under a doctor’s orders or accidentally ingesting them from the streets, no one plans to become addicted. Opioids have a high chance of developing dependence, and it can happen before you know it. Thankfully, there are treatment options for opioid use disorder. Fentanyl addiction treatment is the first step to help you regain your life and rediscover your passions. Finding a program that fits your needs and helps you reach your goals will be the catalyst to breaking free and finding success in recovery.
If you or someone you love is managing a fentanyl or opioid use disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out. ReVIDA® Recovery has helped many reclaim their lives from addiction and find recovery. With proven therapies and medication-assisted treatment, we help you realize your inner strength and learn the skills you need to be successful. Our program is flexible and can work with a variety of schedules so you don’t miss out on work or family time. Call us today at 423-631-0432 to schedule an appointment.