Why Is Fentanyl So Much More Dangerous Than Most Other Opioids?

For those who may not be familiar with fentanyl, it is a synthetic opioid that is commonly prescribed to treat chronic pain. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is 50 times more potent than morphine. And this high potency has led to fentanyl becoming the most commonly abused opioid in America, with it playing a role in nearly 30,000 overdose-related deaths in 2017, according to the same CDC study. It is important to note that there is a difference between prescription and illicitly-made fentanyl. Prescription fentanyl is available in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges. Illicitly-made fentanyl, however, is often mixed with heroin or extracted from transdermal patches and injected. These various ways of getting and using fentanyl have made it, arguably, the most dangerous opioid in America.


Similar to other opioids, fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the body, particularly those in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, pain signals that would otherwise travel to the brain are blocked. More than that, as fentanyl attaches itself to these opioid receptors, it triggers an increase in dopamine, the chemical in the brain that is responsible for feelings of pleasure, reward, and intense euphoria. For many of the individuals who abuse fentanyl, the feelings that are brought on by this increase in dopamine is what motivates them to continue using and abusing it despite the risk to their health.


Along with preventing pain signals from traveling to the brain and triggering feelings of pleasure, reward, and intense euphoria, fentanyl can also have an equally profound impact on the body. Several studies have revealed that abusing fentanyl can lead to respiratory depression. If left untreated, respiratory depression can lead to coma and may even be fatal. Because respiratory depression occurs while an individual is experiencing the euphoric and pain-relieving effects of fentanyl, it often goes unnoticed. While in this state, the lungs are no longer capable of exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen, which slows down breathing. What’s more, respiratory depression can also lead to respiratory acidosis, a buildup of acid in the body that can cause organ failure.


In summation, there are a variety of factors that make fentanyl more dangerous than other opioids. Fortunately, there is no shortage of rehab facilities that offer treatment programs that specifically aimed at those battling an addiction to fentanyl. To learn more about overcoming fentanyl addiction, consider speaking with one of our friendly and helpful addiction specialists today at 855-807-4673.