Despite the similarity of their names, carfentanil and fentanyl are two substances with differing effects on the human body. Though they share a similar opioid base, they have profoundly different medical applications.
Additionally, the illicit use of carfentanil and fentanyl highlight a few more differences between the two–namely, the fact that carfentanil is a significantly more potent substance than fentanyl. This distinction is important in the medical field, as well as illicit use.
Fentanyl Citrate, Duragesic, Sublimaze, Actiq – What Are They?
Fentanyl citrate is the citrate salt of fentanyl, a prescription pain medication that doctors prescribe under the brand names Duragesic, Actiq, and Sublimaze. Fentanyl belongs to a family of drugs called opioids, which include painkillers that suppress the brain’s release of noradrenaline.
Put simply, these substances cause the brain to produce less “wakefulness” neurotransmitters, and the body relaxes as a result. This is a helpful chemical process for killing pain in medical patients. However, the effect is also highly addictive, and opioid addictions are quick to form.
To get a clear perspective of just how powerful carfentanil is, it’s helpful to use related substances to describe a relative scale of potency.
If morphine is a “1” on the scale of potency, then fentanyl falls at around the “100” mark. For a patient to receive the same pain-killing effect that fentanyl produces in a single dose, they would need to have 100 doses of that size of morphine.
The main reason for the potency disparity between these two is the fact that morphine is derived directly from the plant while fentanyl is a further processed, synthetic form of morphine.
Manufacturers extract opium from the poppy plant to produce the basic form of morphine. Since morphine is derived directly from the organic matter, its strength is limited by natural growing factors.
Fentanyl, on the other hand, is synthetically produced through chemical means. Factories producing fentanyl do so for the express goal of making a pain-killing chemical.
While this potentially makes it a more effective treatment in its proper application, it also means fentanyl withdrawal is both more likely and severe.
Are Carfentanil and Fentanyl the Same Thing?
In a comparison of carfentanil vs fentanyl, the two drugs share some basic similarities, but are vastly different in application.
Like fentanyl, carfentanil is also in the opioid family. Studies have shown that there are small differences in how the brain responds to various types of opioids, but they affect the brain in the same basic way.
Both carfentanil and fentanyl are synthetic. Manufactured drugs are often more concentrated forms of the substance they are derived from–which means they are also more addictive.
This means that individuals who abuse the substance may be more likely to experience a fentanyl withdrawal or overdose.
Since more powerful substances require smaller amounts to reach overdose levels, it is all too easy for an addicted individual to mistakenly overdose on drugs like Duragesic, Sublimaze, or Actiq.
As the potency of the opioids becomes stronger and stronger, as little as a few micrograms could mean the difference between a life and death.
The main difference between carfentanil and fentanyl, however, is that of drug potency.
Going back to the scale where morphine is considered a level “1” in potency, and fentanyl is a level 100, carfentanil would be considered “100 times stronger” than fentanyl.
This means that it is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Carfentanil’s intense power when compared to morphine makes the perspective incredibly difficult to convey.
It’s important to note that while fentanyl can be found in prescriptions like Sublimaze, carfentanil has no medical application in humans, but sometimes is used as a tranquilizer for herd animals or elephants.
Risks and Fentanyl Withdrawal
As with most substances, the risk involved when using fentanyl or carfentanil rises exponentially, especially in illicit circumstances.
These two substances are so powerful that individuals rarely consciously abuse them. However, drug distributors may mix either opioid with heroin or another substance, in order to produce an exceptionally strong drug.
This paves the way for many complex layers of addiction as users don’t truly know what they’re taking or how much. Additionally, the risk of overdose with even the most minute amount of fentanyl or carfentanil means that mixing them into heroin or other street drugs can be deadly.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Whether someone has been using illicit forms of fentanyl or even prescription Duragesic, Sublimaze, or Actiq for a while, their bodies have likely formed a dependence. Full-blown addiction or not, they will likely experience some element of fentanyl withdrawal.
Common fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Agitation and anxiety
- Hot and cold flashes
- Excessive yawning
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Muscles aches and/or joint pain
- Stomach cramps and/or diarrhea
Symptoms usually begin within hours of the last dose and dissipate within a week. Days 2-4 tend to be the time when symptoms peak.
Detoxing alone is strongly discouraged and can severely increase not only fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, but is also more likely to lead to relapse.
Opioid addiction can be severe and dangerous. Dependence upon an opioid only worsens over time. Furthermore, developing a tolerance means that a person needs more and more of the substance to get their desired effect.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can make it extremely difficult to stop permanently. This is why it is so important to seek professional guidance in detox and recovery from opioid addiction.
If you think you or a loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder, contact us today. Or, if you would like to read more about substance abuse risks or get some more information, read our blog.