Is Fentanyl an Opioid?

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Is Fentanyl an Opioid?

Fentanyl is a powerful drug that can be hugely beneficial for pain management; however, due to its potency and fast-acting nature, Fentanyl has become a substance used illicitly and its composition makes it highly addictive.

One of the most common questions surrounding Fentanyl is whether or not it is an opioid, as opioids are often known for their addictive nature. However, this is not the only distinguishing characteristic worth noting about Fentanyl.

Fentanyl is rapidly becoming an illicit drug of choice, which makes understanding its composition vital in order to fully understand the ramifications the ramp up in Fentanyl abuse may have in the future.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is most commonly used to treat severe pain, for pain management purposes immediately following a major surgery, or to treat patients with chronic pain that have developed a tolerance to other pain management medications. One of the most important characteristics of Fentanyl is its potency.

Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, making it an extremely powerful substance. Because of this, Fentanyl is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II drug due to its high potential for abuse and the potential for its use leading to psychological and physical dependence.

Fentanyl is highly addictive in nature, and as with many other substances, users build a tolerance for Fentanyl if it is taken on a continuous basis for an extended period of time. Fentanyl can be extremely beneficial when prescribed, used, and monitored properly; however, its potency makes it a primary target for illicit use.

In its prescription form, Fentanyl is often known as Actiq®, Fentora®, Duragesic®, Lazanda®, or Sublimaze®. In its street form, Fentanyl has garnered a number of colorful street names including Apache, China Town, China Girl, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Jackpot, King Ivory, Murder 8, and Tango & Cash.

Fentanyl’s extreme potency also makes it a prime candidate for lacing other substances in order to increase their strength and effect, most commonly heroin or cocaine are the substances likely to be laced with Fentanyl.

Fentanyl laced heroin has even earned a few street names of its own, including China White, Poison, and T.N.T. With this understanding of Fentanyl in mind, it is now important to analyze the composition of Fentanyl and its classification in order to determine whether or not it is considered an opioid.

The Classification of Fentanyl

While Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II drug, this is not the only classification worth noting about this powerful substance. One common question surrounding Fentanyl is whether or not it is an opioid. Opiates are a group of drugs most commonly used for pain treatment and management.

Drugs in the opiate class are derived from opium, which is produced by the poppy plant. Opiate is a laden term that draws references of both illegal and legal drugs and covers a large variety of different types of drugs. Legal opiates include morphine and codeine, while illegal opiates include heroin and opium.

The terms opiate and opioid are often used interchangeably; however, opioids include synthetic and semi-synthetic opiate drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and a narcotic analgesic (pain reliever).

The Role of Fentanyl in Society Today

While Fentanyl can be an extremely beneficial substance when prescribed legally and monitored closely, its unique chemical composition and properties have made it a prime target for the illicit drug trade and for the development of a strong chemical dependence.

By nature, Fentanyl is made to be a slow-release drug; however, as its role in the modern drug landscape has evolved, drug dealers have found methods to disarm this characteristic in order to allow drug users to feel the full intensity of Fentanyl at once. Because of its potency and versatility, Fentanyl has become one of the most commonly abused prescription pain medications in the United States.

Fentanyl is highly addictive, which pushes those addicted to its side effects to go to great lengths to continue using it. Common methods for obtaining Fentanyl include doctor shopping, stealing drugs, forging prescriptions, and buying Fentanyl illegally off the streets. Fentanyl has changed the modern drug landscape and has set a new standard for potency for both pain management and illicit use.

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