The term “synthetic heroin” refers to any number of human-made prescription or illegal opioids. For example, fentanyl is a fully synthetic or “human-made” opioid up to 50 times much more potent than heroin itself.
Opioids are a category of drugs that includes both natural compounds derived from the poppy plant (e.g., morphine, thebaine) as well as those that are produced artificially, such as oxycodone.
Opioids are available legally in the United States by prescription only and are primarily used to relieve pain. At this time, there are not many natural opiates currently employed in medical settings. Opium was once used for medical purposes but is no longer prevalent in clinical environments. Codeine and morphine are both controlled substances in the U.S., meaning that they can only be attained legally by a licensed doctor.
Heroin is illegal, not approved for medical purposes, and one of the most regularly abused opioids. Heroin is produced from morphine and synthesized in labs. Once administered, however, it is converted back to morphine in the brain, where it binds to opioid receptors.
Fentanyl and Carfentanil
As noted, one example of what is referred to as “synthetic heroin” is fentanyl, and another is it’s even more potent relative, carfentanil.
Fentanyl is an opioid believed to be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, and carfentanil is as much as 100 times more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl was originally intended to treat severe, acute pain for end-of-life care, but it’s since become one of the most prevalently abused synthetic opioids.
While individuals may use fentanyl intentionally for the powerful and rapid pain-relieving effects it can deliver, it can also be used accidentally. For instance, it is often mixed with heroin or marketed as an entirely different drug entirely. This trend has resulted in thousands of overdose deaths in recent years, and even a minuscule amount of fentanyl can lead to life-threatening consequences.
As noted, carfentanil is also sometimes referred to as synthetic heroin, has no approved use for humans, and is mainly used to sedate very large animals such as horses and elephants.
Even those with a high tolerance for opioids can overdose and die from using just using a minuscule amount of carfentanil. Carfentanil use is not prevalent, but unfortunately, in recent years, it has devastated communities in Ohio, causing hundreds of overdoses and deaths.
What Does Synthetic Heroin Look Like?
Because the term synthetic heroin may refer to many types of opioids, both prescription and illicit, this is a bit of a challenging question to answer. These substances could be in powder, tablet, or liquid form, and they can be smoked, snorted, smoked, or injected. If you believe that you or someone you know is addicted to synthetic heroin or similar drugs, you may have noticed the presence of whitish powder, pills, needles, or other paraphernalia.
Other signs of synthetic heroin use include the following:
- Changes in behavior
- Use of street slang for heroin
- Skin sores or “track marks”
- Legal and financial issues
- Deception and secretiveness
Effects of Synthetic Heroin
- An initial euphoric rush
- Flushed skin
- Slowed heart rate
- Drowsiness for hours
- Heaviness of limbs
- Cloudy thinking
- Withdrawal symptoms
Signs of Overdose
An overdose on synthetic heroin can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. The following are common signs and symptoms associated with an overdose:
- Bluish lips and/or nails
- Shallow or slowed breathing
- Muscle spasticity
- Low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Respiratory arrest
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
A dependence on heroin or other opioids is a very severe, potentially life-threatening condition that requires professional treatment. Just Believe Recovery offers integrated programs in both residential and partial hospitalization formats. Services include behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, peer support groups, aftercare planning, and much more.
We employ compassionate addiction specialists who render services to those we treat with care and expertise. We are dedicated to ensuring that each person we treat receives the resources, education, and support they need to break free from the chains of addiction. We help people improve coping skills, prevent relapse, and learn how to enjoy long-lasting wellness and sobriety.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to heroin, other drugs, or alcohol, please contact us today!