(888) 448-0302 Talk to a recovery specialist 24/7

Choosing recovery close to home means your support system is just a few miles away.

  • 100% Confidential
  • Available 24/7
  • No Pressure to Commit
  • Multiple Financial Options Available
Call (888) 448-0302

We're Here To Help 24/7

What Are Synthetic Opioids?

by Will Long

February 22, 2022
What Are Synthetic Opioids?

In today’s synthetic opioids list, we’ll highlight the dangers of this strongly addictive class of manmade opioids.

Synthetic opioids other than methadone played a part in over 31,000 deaths in the United States, according to 2018 data. This amounts to a 10% increase over the previous year and represents 67% of all opioid-related deaths that year.

Fentanyl is one of the most pressing factors driving this uptick in deaths at the hands of opioids. Law enforcement agencies report more positive tests for fentanyl, despite this not correlating with fentanyl prescribing rates. This points toward illegally manufactured fentanyl (IMF) being more culpable than pharmaceutical fentanyl.

More on the menacing threat of fentanyl after we explore the basics of synthetic opioids.

What Are Synthetic Opioids?

Synthetic opioids is an umbrella term for either:

  • Established manmade opiates
  • Newer and less researched drugs with opiate-like effects

These substances are entirely synthesized in laboratories. We derive natural opioids, by contrast, from the seeds pods of opium poppies.

Synthetic opioids work on the same targets in your brain as natural opioids like codeine and morphine. Users experience strong pain-relieving effects along with a sense of sedation and euphoria.

Some synthetic opioids are used for approved medical applications. Fentanyl is the most common of these, used for decades to treat chronic pain. When used in minuscule doses in a controlled setting, the drug is remarkably effective.

Other synthetic opioids have no approved medical use. The most popular examples of these are:

  • AH-7921
  • Carfentanil
  • Acetyl-fentanyl (fentanyl analogs)
  • U-47700 (commonly called pink)

Crossing between legal and illicit synthetic opioids, more and more fentanyl is now finding its way into street heroin, as well as some other drugs from this class.

The clandestine production of synthetic opioids related to fentanyl is not a new threat. Indeed, back in the 1970s, there was an explosion in the trafficking and abuse of fentanyl on the West Coast before an aggressive DEA campaign brought the problem under control.

The problem resurfaced, though. Since 2013, we have witnessed an increase in the trafficking and abuse of the following substances structurally similar to fentanyl:

  • 4-fluoroisobutyryl fentanyl
  • Acetyl fentanyl
  • Acryl fentanyl
  • Beta-hydroxythiofentanyl
  • Butyryl fentanyl
  • Furanyl fentanyl
  • U-47700

Why do Dealers Cut Heroin with Fentanyl?

Despite a war on drugs that’s been simmering for decades, heroin still commands a robust market. Demand for the drug remains insatiable, in fact.

Dealers cutting heroin with fentanyl might seem counterintuitive until you understand that it’s not street-level dealers cutting the product. Rather, it’s a calculated decision made much higher up the supply chain.

If you think about it, fentanyl makes a great cutting agent from the standpoint of a heroin trafficker. The substance is inexpensive to produce and substantially strengthens batches of heroin. Mid-level suppliers are impressed with purer product, while end-users bear the brunt, often overdosing on unexpectedly pure heroin. The process of adulterating heroin with fentanyl is not straightforward. This usually occurs in labs outside the United States.

Synthetic Opioids Abuse

People abuse synthetic opioids in just the same way as opioid-based prescription painkillers or street-level heroin.

While abuse follows the same patterns, the strength of synthetic opioids means they have a heightened potential for fatal overdose. Fentanyl, for instance, is at least 50 times stronger than morphine.

What Is The Overdose Potential for Synthetic Opioids?

Overdose on synthetic opioids tends to trigger the same effects as legal opioid analgesics. These include:

  • Changed in pupil size
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Respiratory failure
  • Stupor
  • Suppressed breathing

If you notice three of more of these symptoms, it’s a strong indicator of opioid poisoning.

You run an increased risk of overdose and fatal overdose when you mix synthetic opioids with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other opiates.

Injecting synthetic opioids is less common and brings about more risks like blood clots, thromboses, infections, and even gangrene. Sharing needles is also dangerous, increasing the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Synthetic Opioids: the Opioid Epidemic

How did we get to the stage where the number of fatal opioid overdoses is climbing again?

In 2011, the number of deaths from prescription opioids started to plateau after a decade of the opioid epidemic wreaking havoc in the US.

Synthetic opioids are responsible for fanning the flames and rekindling the fire. On one hand, heroin is now routinely cut with fentanyl. On the other, many counterfeit pills purporting to be Vicodin or OxyContin contain fentanyl. The end-user is tricked, with often deadly consequences.

How Can We Minimize The Risks of Synthetic Opioids?

Criminalization and prohibition have done nothing to stem the tide of any drugs, and it’s no different with synthetic opioids.

Instead, health-focused measures can be much more effective in stemming the flow of opioid overdoses.

The following would be beneficial

  • Continuing drug education, specifically concerning fentanyl
  • Establishment of more SIFs (supervised injection facilities)
  • Improved access to naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication

What Comes Next

If you’ve found yourself addicted to synthetic opioids, it’s inadvisable to abruptly stop using these drugs without assistance. Discontinuing use can trigger unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Continuing to use synthetic opioids, though, will lead to an unmanageable problem, so take action and call the friendly team here at Landmark Recovery. With the right combination of medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy, you can leave opioids behind for good. Reach out today at 888-448-0302.

recovery specialist available 24 hours a day at landmark recovery

Choose Recovery Over Addiction

We're here 24/7 to help you get the care you need to live life on your terms, without drugs or alcohol. Talk to our recovery specialists today and learn about our integrated treatment programs.

About the Author

Will Long

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Long has been a writer for Landmark Recovery since 2021. He specializes in research and writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective. Unearthing information from underexplored, far-flung corners of the Internet, Long’s passion is finding emerging trends in substance use and treatment that the public should know about.