According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic opioids became the United States’ top cause of drug overdose in 2016. That year, synthetic opioid drug overdoses caused 19,413 out of 42,249 opioid-related overdose deaths. These drugs also had a role to play in many overdoses involving other substances. Understanding and resolving synthetic opioid addiction can help us address the United States’ opioid addiction epidemic.
About Synthetic Opioids
Synthetic opioids mimic the effects of natural opioids like morphine and codeine. While other types of opioids involve natural sources, a laboratory can create synthetic opioids with chemical reactions. As a result, someone can make synthetic opioids more quickly than other classes of opioids. Also, synthetic opioids tend to have a much higher potency than other opioids. A synthetic opioid can have 100 times the potency of an opioid from a natural source.
Types of Synthetic Opioids
Two kinds of synthetic opioids exist:
- Prescription: Doctors may prescribe synthetic opioids or use them in a clinical setting. Because of their potency, medical professionals may use them in critical care, for operative pain or for pain related to terminal illnesses. In rare cases, a doctor may prescribe synthetic opioids to take at home, but only for very severe symptoms. People who misuse synthetic opioids often take them to “get high.”
- Illicit: Underground labs create synthetic opioids to sell on the illicit drug market. People who sell illicit synthetic opioids may sell them on their own or combine them with other drugs. Illicit synthetic opioids have a link to the recent increase in overdose deaths.
The synthetic opioid fentanyl comes in prescription and illicit forms and causes many deaths associated with synthetic opioid overdose. Illicit synthetic opioids without fentanyl called novel synthetic opioids also appear on the illegal drug market.
Do Synthetic Opioids Have More Risks Than Other Opioids?
Misusing any opioid has life-threatening risks. However, synthetic opioids can cause even more harm than other opioids due to these factors:
- Potency: Since synthetic opioids have a much higher potency than other opioids, it takes a smaller amount to overdose on them. For example, fentanyl has a 50 times higher potency than heroin and a 100 times higher potency than morphine.
- Presence in other drugs: Illicit drug sellers sometimes add fentanyl to other drugs to increase their potency. As a result, many synthetic opioid overdoses happen to people who misuse other drugs.
- Popularity on the drug market: Since it takes a shorter time to create synthetic opioids than naturally sourced opioids, many drug sellers deal them. They have a high prevalence in the global drug market.
Out of these risks, synthetic opioids’ potency has the most potential to cause harm. Their strength makes them incredibly dangerous for anyone who takes them.
What to Do If You Have a Synthetic Opioid Addiction
If you think you have an addiction to synthetic opioids, an opioid addiction treatment center can help. MedMark Treatment Centers supports patients across the United States in their recovery from opioid addiction. To begin synthetic opioid addiction treatment, contact a MedMark clinic near you.