Carfentanil Vs. Fentanyl | Which Is More Dangerous?
- What Is Fentanyl?
- What Is Carfentanil?
- Effects Of Carfentanil & Fentanyl
- Fentanyl Vs. Carfentanil Overdose
The use of synthetic opioids, like carfentanil and fentanyl, is a public health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 36,000 people died in 2019 from an opioid overdose involving synthetic opioids.
Although carfentanil and fentanyl are both dangerous and highly addictive, carfentanil is significantly more powerful. Carfentanil is about 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl.
However, both fentanyl and carfentanil carry a high risk of overdose. An opioid overdose may result in difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, and death.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved for the treatment of severe pain or terminal cancer pain. It is reserved for use on people who are tolerant to other opioids. Tolerance means the body has adapted to the effects of less potent opioids and requires higher doses to relieve pain.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is a much higher risk of overdose with fentanyl compared to other prescription opioids. The potency of fentanyl is about 100 times that of morphine and about 2 mg of fentanyl can cause a fatal overdose.
What Is Carfentanil?
Carfentanil is a fentanyl analog, which means its effects and chemical structure are similar to fentanyl. However, carfentanil is extremely dangerous and about 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
It is FDA-approved for use in veterinary medicine as a tranquilizer on large mammals. However, carfentanil is not approved for human use because it is extremely potent and a very small amount can be deadly.
Despite the health risks, carfentanil is cheap to produce and has become more prevalent during the opioid crisis.
In 2016, law enforcement in Florida and Ohio reported the detection of carfentanil in illicit drugs that coincided with an increase in drug overdose deaths in those areas. That same year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a nationwide statement regarding the dangers of carfentanil.
Effects Of Carfentanil & Fentanyl
Fentanyl and illicit fentanyl analogs are central nervous system depressants that slow brain functions, like breathing and heart rate. In addition, they both produce effects similar to prescription opioids, including pain relief and euphoria.
Adverse side effects of carfentanil and fentanyl may include:
- pinpoint pupils
Fentanyl Vs. Carfentanil Overdose
Both fentanyl and carfentanil can cause respiratory depression, which is characterized by difficulty breathing, slow heart rate, and low blood pressure. Respiratory depression can result in an opioid overdose death if it isn’t treated in time.
Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues cannot be detected through sight, smell, or taste. Unless you obtain drugs from a healthcare professional, you cannot ensure the drug doesn’t contain fentanyl or a related substance.
The lethal dose of carfentanil is unknown but may be much less than 2 mg (the lethal dose of fentanyl).
Both substances are commonly mixed with heroin, methamphetamine, or pressed into pills that appear like prescription drugs. Mixing fentanyl and carfentanil with other drugs increases the likelihood of overdose.
Signs of an opioid overdose include:
- pinpoint pupils
- slow breathing
- cold/clammy skin
An overdose can be fatal and emergency medical services are necessary. While you wait for help to arrive, you can administer Narcan (naloxone) if you have it nearby.
Narcan is an opioid antagonist that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. A potent opioid like fentanyl or carfentanil may require multiple doses of naloxone before an individual regains consciousness.
Fentanyl and carfentanil pose a threat to people struggling with addiction, their loved ones, and law enforcement. The drugs are potent enough that coming in contact with them by inhalation or contact with the skin can cause a drug overdose.
In addition, both drugs are highly addictive because of their strong potency. Addiction is characterized by intense cravings and a loss of control over substance use, regardless of its effects on health and other areas of life.
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, a comprehensive treatment program can help you recover.
At Northeast Addictions Treatment Center, we offer a wide range of outpatient programs that include individual counseling, family therapy, behavioral therapy, and support groups. If you would like to learn more about how we treat opioid addiction, please contact us today.
Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.