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Is Fentanyl An Opioid? A Powerful & Dangerous Drug

What are Opioids?

Opioids are commonly used for their pain-relieving properties and are prescribed for various medical conditions. This includes pain management after surgery, injury, or for chronic pain. The opioid epidemic involved the misuse of both prescription and illegal opioids, leading to many overdoses and deaths. So, how is Fentanyl an opioid?

Is Fentanyl An Opioid?

Fentanyl is a potent opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than Morphine and extremely more potent than Oxycodone or Hydrocodone. Due to its potency, fentanyl is typically reserved for the management of severe pain, such as pain associated with surgery, cancer, or chronic conditions when other opioids may not be sufficient.

Fentanyl is used medically for pain management. It’s mostly used in cases of severe pain, such as during surgery or for chronic pain conditions like cancer. It can be associated with overdose and death. Fentanyl is known to be misused or abused. Illegally produced, this drug has been a notable contributor to the opioid epidemic. It is commonly mixed with other drugs, such as Heroin, and helps lead to increased risks of overdose.

What Type Of Drug Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an analgesic, also known as painkillers. Analgesics are medications that relieve various types of pain, from headaches to injuries. Various types of analgesics are classified into different categories.

  1. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs, such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen, reduce pain by hindering the production of prostaglandins. These are substances that boost inflammation and donate to the sensation of pain.
  2. Acetaminophen: This analgesic known as Tylenol is effective for relieving pain and reducing fever. Unlike NSAIDs, these drugs have minimal anti-inflammatory effects and focus more on reducing pain and fevers.
  3. Opioid Analgesics: These analgesics, including Oxycodone and Fentanyl, change the way the brain receives pain. These medications interact with specific receptors in the Central Nervous System (CNS) known as opioid receptors. By activating these receptors, it regulates pain signals, resulting in pain relief and, in some cases, a sense of euphoria
  4. Topical Analgesics: These are applied directly to the skin and include creams, patches, or gels. They can contain ingredients like Lidocaine or Capsaicin. They are often used for localized pain relief.
  5. Adjuvant Analgesics: Some drugs that are not primarily created for pain relief may have analgesic properties and are used along with other pain medications. These include certain Antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft or Anticonvulsants such as Clonazepam or Divalproex.

The choice of analgesic depends on not only the type and severity of pain but the underlying cause of it. It’s important to use these medications with the help of a healthcare professional to make sure that it is given appropriately. This will minimize potential side effects, risks, and possible overdose.

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Different Types of Fentanyl

There are two types of Fentanyl. It can be used as a pharmaceutical drug, and it can be manufactured illegally. Both are considered synthetic opioids. However, the pharmaceutical Fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain. While drug traffickers produce and sell illegal Fentanyl for profit. Here are the different types of Fentanyl.

Fentanyl Citrate

This is the form of Fentanyl that is often used in medical settings, such as hospitals, for pain management. Fentanyl citrate is available in various formulations, and its medical use is typically administered by healthcare professionals. It’s most commonly used as an injection to relieve pain during and after surgery.

Duragesic (Fentanyl Transdermal)

This is a brand name for a transdermal patch that releases Fentanyl over an extended period, usually 72 hours. It is used for chronic pain management. These patches come in different strengths, allowing healthcare providers to have options that can be the precise dose to the individual patient’s needs. The patches are available in various microgram-per-hour (mcg/h) strengths.


This is a Fentanyl lozenge on a stick that is created for rapid absorption through the oral mucosa. These lozenges are known as Fentanyl “lollipops.” It is often prescribed for breakthrough pain in cancer patients. It’s vital to use lozenges exactly as prescribed by a healthcare professional because any misuse or inappropriate use can lead to serious health risks, including overdose.


This is a brand name of Fentanyl that is commonly used in medical settings, such as in surgical anesthesia or for pain management in a controlled healthcare environment. It can be given through an intravenous injection (IV), transdermal patches, and a lozenge.

Illegal Fentanyl Analogues

Numerous illegally manufactured Fentanyl analogs may be sold on the illegal drug market. This includes Acetyl Fentanyl, Carfentanil, and others. These drugs can be much more potent than pharmaceutical Fentanyl and pose substantial risks, including a higher likelihood of overdose.

Is Fentanyl an opioid
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Is There An Opioid Stronger than Fentanyl


Carfentanil is a highly potent synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than Fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than Morphine. It is not intended for human consumption but is primarily used as a tranquilizer for large animals, such as hippos and elephants. Carfentanil has gained attention as a public health concern because it has been detected in illegal drug supplies, leading to an increased risk of accidental overdoses. It is vital for individuals to be aware of the dangers associated with Carfentanil and to exercise extreme caution when dealing with any substances not prescribed by a qualified healthcare professional.

Isotonitazene (ISO)

In powder form, Isotonitazene or ISO can appear yellow, brown, or off-white in color. This drug has been seen mixed with Heroin and/or Fentanyl. It also has been marketed as a common street drug with deadly consequences. However, in other parts of the country, ISO has already been seen pressed into counterfeit pills and falsely marketed as pharmaceutical medications. Currently, Nitazene reports are still relatively low, especially compared to Fentanyl. Officials say this emerging drug is something to keep a watchful eye on and prevent as much exposure as possible.


Protonitazene can come in the form of powder or tablets. It has also been found in syringes, indicating that the drug is available in all the standard forms of opioids. Protonitazene is three times more potent than Fentanyl. and is one of several drugs categorized as “Nitazene” drugs. These drugs pose a public health threat for several reasons. One is that they may be resistant to overdose antidotes such as Narcan. In addition, they are not controlled and have no approved medical use. Thus, there is no way of knowing how much Protonitazene is being trafficked and used in the U.S. and Canada.

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Why Is Fentanyl Considered An Opioid?

Is Fentanyl an opioid even though it’s used for medicinal reasons? According to the CDC, Fentanyl is considered an opioid because it belongs to the opioid class of drugs. Opioids are a category of substances that include natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic compounds. They are known for their ability to interact with opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body, producing pain relief and, in some cases, euphoria.

Due to its potency, Fentanyl also poses a significant risk of overdose, primarily when not used as prescribed. illegally manufactured, this drug has been a major contributor to opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Since it is often added to other drugs like Heroin or sold on its own in the illegal drug market. Understanding the classification of Fentanyl as an opioid is vital for recognizing its potential risks, and so is ensuring its proper use under medical supervision.

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  1. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. “Fentanyl“.
  2. National Institue on Drug Abuse. (2021). “Fentanyl Drug Facts“.
  3. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. “New, Dangerous Opioid in D.C., Emerging in Tri-State Area“.