How Strong Is Fentanyl?

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As overdose rates continue to remain at record numbers, more often than not, fentanyl is the cause. This opioid regularly tops headlines and statistics as it continues to disrupt lives, families, and communities. Many are unaware, however, of just how potent and harmful this substance truly is when compared to its opioid predecessors. As more people equip themselves with knowledge and education, communities are able to fight back against the deadly effects of fentanyl.

If you or someone you know is struggling with fentanyl use and feels like there is no hope, there is good news. Help is available and it may be easier than you think. Guardian Recovery has made substance abuse treatment more accessible than ever. Our admissions professionals can assess your needs and connect you to the best quality of treatment available. Call any time day or night to speak with an admissions coordinator and begin your path to freedom.

Morphine is the naturally occurring substance that secretes from the seed pod of the Poppy plant when it is cut. A milky white substance will thicken as it leaks. As it thickens it is harvested and dried out producing usable morphine, the base for most opioids. Morphine by itself is a powerful pain relieving agent when used for medical purposes and a highly addictive smokable substance when used for recreational purposes.

Morphine itself is highly addictive due to its method of interacting with the brain and body to induce a sense of euphoria and ease of pain. Depending on the quality, fentanyl is estimated to be roughly 100 times more potent (1) than morphine. A typical starting dose of morphine in a medical setting would be 2.5 milligrams (2), or .0025 grams. This means, to receive the same effect from fentanyl a patient would receive a dose of .000025 grams. For comparison, 1 teaspoon of sugar is roughly 4 grams.

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Fentanyl’s Potency Compared to Heroin

When compared to morphine’s semi-synthetic counterpart heroin, fentanyl comes in at an estimated 50 times more potent (3). In a healthy adult male, an estimated lethal dose of heroin would be approximately 30 milligrams. The amount of fentanyl required to overdose that same male would be less than 1 milligram. This amount of fentanyl is approximately the size of Abraham Lincoln’s ear on the front of a penny.

Why Is Fentanyl So Much Stronger Than Other Opioids?

Fentanyl, unlike many other opioids, is fully synthetic (4). This means that it is composed completely of chemical compounds especially designed to be extremely potent. Most other opioids are naturally occurring or have some element of naturally occurring morphine in them. This means that they are reliant on the potency of this natural substance. Fentanyl being made using only chemicals can be adjusted over time to become increasingly as potent as those manufacturing it see fit.

What Is the Average Dose Used for Medical Purposes

The typical dose for fentanyl (5) as a pre-surgery anesthetic is 50 to 100 micrograms administered through an IV. This dose is enough to render the patient unconscious and free of pain throughout the surgery. There are 1000 micrograms in 1 milligram meaning that there are 1 million micrograms in 1 gram. For acute or moderate pain the recommended dose is 1 microgram for each kilogram of body weight with the maximum amount of administration being 100 micrograms administered intranasally.

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Dose of Fentanyl in Street Drugs

One of the most harmful effects of fentanyl is its introduction into other street drugs. As cocaine or various counterfeit prescription pills are mixed with fentanyl (3), the person using is not aware and can easily ingest a potentially lethal dose. Many of the overdose deaths in recent years have been attributed to this exact scenario leading to a 55% increase in synthetic opioid related deaths from 2020 to 2021. 42% of illegally manufactured pulls confiscated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) contained 2 milligrams or more of fentanyl, a potentially lethal dose.

Is Fentanyl More Addictive Than Other Opioids?

Fentanyl as a whole is classified by the DEA as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means that it is among the most addictive substances available while maintaining some medical benefit. As more information is made available concerning the potentially addictive properties of fentanyl, many of the fentanyl derivatives are being reclassified (6) as Schedule I. Being classified as a Schedule I controlled substance means that it is illegal in all forms and that it is both highly addictive and carries no medical benefit.

Is Detoxing From Fentanyl More Difficult Than Other Commonly Abused Drugs?

Fentanyl is chemically designed to effectively reduce pain as it interacts with the brain and body. As a person uses it frequently, their body becomes dependent upon this substance to release the naturally occurring chemicals in the brain and body. When someone who uses frequently suddenly stops using, their body is unable to function properly for a period of time. When the body is continuously removing the remaining substance from its system while attempting to recover physically, this process is known as detox.

Similar to other opioids, detox from fentanyl is an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous process if not monitored by trained medical professionals. Symptoms of detox include:

  • Muscle and bone pain.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Cold flashes with “goosebumps.”
  • Uncontrollable leg movements.
  • Severe cravings.

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Seeking Treatment for Fentanyl Use

With fentanyl overdoses continuing to claim the lives of thousands of Amercians each year, many are looking for solutions for this epidemic. Combinations of therapy and medication assisted treatment have proven to be an extremely successful solution for those who are struggling with fentanyl use.

At Guardian Recovery, we understand the damage that fentanyl use disorders can have on people, families, and communities. Our trained team of medical and addiction professionals are committed to ensuring that the best quality of substance use treatment is made available to you or a loved one who may be struggling. From the first phone call, through a safe detox, and onto a lifestyle of long term recovery, Guardian Recovery is passionate about saving lives. Call today to speak with an admissions coordinator and begin your journey to freedom.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/fentanyl/index.html
  2. https://www.palliativedrugs.com/download/COMPLETEMORPHINEVARIABLEDOSECHART2.pdf
  3. https://www.dea.gov/resources/facts-about-fentanyl
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459275/
  6. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/05/04/2021-09402/schedules-of-controlled-substances-placement-of-four-specific-fentanyl-related-substances-in

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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