What Is Synthetic Heroin? December 6th, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News What Is Synthetic Heroin?

What Is Synthetic Heroin?

What is synthetic heroin? Synthetic heroin isn’t one specific drug. It’s several different drugs falling into the larger umbrella of synthetic opioids. Synthetic opioids are opioids derived partially from a natural source which is the poppy plant or they have opioid effects but are not naturally-occurring at all.

Opioids, whether naturally-derived or synthetic are psychoactive substances like not only heroin but also many prescription pain medications. Most prescription opioids are synthetic, meaning that while they have effects similar to natural opioids, they are humanmade. Natural opioids used in medicine include morphine and codeine.

All opioids, whether naturally derived or synthetic, affect opioid receptors in the brain. When activated, they cause the central nervous system to slow. Someone who uses opioids will also feel a euphoric high in some cases, drowsiness and mental fogginess.

Types of Synthetic Heroin

Synthetic heroin isn’t one specific drug. Some examples of substances that fall into this category are:

  • Fentanyl
  • Carfentanil
  • Dilaudid
  • Hydromorphone

Synthetic heroin is humanmade. Two examples of synthetic heroin are fentanyl and carfentanil. Fentanyl is a prescription opioid pain medication that’s incredibly potent. Prescription fentanyl is estimated to be 50 times stronger than heroin, but with effects similar to morphine. Fentanyl was originally intended as medication for palliative and end-of-life care. Now black market manufacturers recreate it and sell the products on the streets.

Sometimes people may know they’re illegally buying fentanyl. In other cases, a person may not know and they may think they’re buying just heroin.

Carfentanil is another form of synthetic heroin. Carfentanil is even stronger than fentanyl. It’s estimated to be 100 times stronger than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Carfentanil isn’t used in human medicine. Instead, it’s used as a sedation medication for large animals like elephants.

Is Synthetic Heroin Dangerous?

Synthetic heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil, are extremely dangerous. Just a tiny amount of fentanyl can lead to a fatal overdose. With carfentanil, a dose the size of a salt grain can lead to overdose and death. These synthetic forms of heroin are so dangerous and deadly that first responders to scenes where an opioid overdose may have occurred have to wear protective clothing.

Synthetic opioids were involved in almost half of all opioid-related deaths. That was a 14 percent increase from 2010. There were more than 19,400 overdose deaths related to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in 2018. That was significantly more than overdose deaths related only to prescription opioids: 17,087. It was also more than deaths from heroin alone: 15,489.

Why Do People Use Synthetic Drugs?

Some people want a powerful high that comes with these drugs and they may be tolerant to the effects of other opioids. The other case is when someone inadvertently uses synthetic heroin like fentanyl, thinking they’re using a different drug. Someone may buy what they think is just heroin on the streets but then it includes fentanyl or carfentanil.

The risk of opioids containing other substances is one of the biggest problems related to the current opioid epidemic. When people buy these drugs on the streets, they’re putting themselves at huge risk.

What is the negative consequence of using synthetic drugs? There isn’t just one. There are many ranging from addiction and dependence to overdose and death. The consequences are all severe.

If you or someone you love struggles with opioids, synthetic or otherwise, contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Speak with a representative to learn more about our programs and explore options that may fit your needs.



NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioids.” Accessed April 5, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids Drug Overdose Deaths.” May 2018. Accessed April 5, 2019.

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