Why Synthetic Heroin Is So Deadly?

Heroin, also known as diamorphine, is an opioid that is is used for recreational purposes owing to its euphoric effects. It can also be used for medical purposes to relieve pain. It is typically injected into a vein, but can also be smoked, inhaled, or snorted. The onset of its effects is immediate and lasts for a few hours. Without a prescription, it is illegal and the synthetic version of the drug, synthetic heroin, is deadly. Abuse will result in death if a person overdoses. The difference is that synthetic heroin is produced chemically and not derived from the poppy plant.

Synthetic heroin was implicated in the 2016 overdose death of singer Prince and has been named as a chief culprit in the opioid crisis. In fact, powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl are leading to more fatal overdoses across the country than those caused by other prescription opioids like heroin. In 2016, according to CDC, about 19,413 people died due to synthetic opioid overdose. So why is it is so deadly? This article highlights what synthetic heroin is, why there is a need to bring awareness to the drug, and why it is so deadly.

What Is Synthetic Heroin?

Synthetic Heroin

It is difficult to settle on one specific definition of what synthetic heroin is since it is mostly used as an umbrella or blanket term to refer to different substances. Examples of synthetic heroin are fentanyl and carfentanil. Fentanyl is an opioid pain medication that is 100 times more powerful than morphine but mimics it in terms of action and effects. Fentanyl was first introduced as a pain reliever for palliative care, but people started abusing it. It has become one of the most widely used synthetic opioids in medicine.

People may knowingly take the drug because of the powerful and rapid effects it can deliver, but sometimes it may be taken accidentally. For instance, the synthetic heroin can be mixed with heroin or sold as a different drug. When abused, an overdose may occur. The drug has been associated with thousands of overdose deaths in recent years and has also contributed to deaths in medicine due to improper use.

Carfentanil is derived from fentanyl. Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, so it is 10,000 times more potent compared to morphine. It is mainly used in sedating large animals like elephants and is not approved for human use. It is so powerful that even when veterinarians use it they have to wear protective clothing. Even for individuals who have developed a tolerance for opioids, taking an amount of carfentanil the size of a salt grain can lead to overdose and then death.

Synthetic Heroin Name

The name is loosely given to a variety of substances. It refer to prescription opioids that primarily act on a person’s central nervous system in a similar manner to heroin or it can be used to refer to other incredibly powerful drugs like carfentanil and fentanyl. Sometimes, the name is used to refer to methadone, which acts just like an opioid but is specifically designed for helping individuals stop using opioids.

Synthetic Heroin

There is also something called China White. China White is a derivative of fentanyl and it is similar to heroin and morphine but more potent. However, overdosing China White is very difficult to treat as it contains a mixture of cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl.

What Does Synthetic Heroin Look Like?

It is difficult to answer this question as it comes in many versions and forms. For instance, one might buy it in the pure form of heroin, but can also be laced with other opioids such as fentanyl. A person may also buy it as a prescription painkiller, but there are other possibilities. It looks much like conventional heroin, which makes it difficult to differentiate.

Is There a Need for Awareness of Synthetic Heroin?

There is a need to bring awareness to the drug to prevent deaths that result from an overdose. For instance, according to the CDC, there were about 19,413 deaths resulting from synthetic opioid overdose. There is an even more disturbing trend that is emerging. According to JAMA, synthetic opioids like synthetic heroin are increasingly showing up in other illicit drug streams including counterfeit pills. The infiltration of fentanyl into other drugs means people who don’t use opioids may be swept into the epidemic. Therefore, awareness will be vital for the relevant authorities to crack down on illegal drugs and put in place regulations that will bar counterfeit drugs or pills.

Synthetic Heroin Seminar

CDC statistics collected between 2010 and 2016 indicate a significant upsurge of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in tandem with other drugs. Of the 42,000 fatal opioid overdoses, over half of them involved synthetic opioids. There is a likelihood that other drugs can be contaminated with synthetic heroin, and people who use illicit substances are at a higher risk of exposure to a sudden overdose. Therefore, creating awareness will go a long way to preventing accidental overdoses.

Between 2010 and 2016, synthetic heroin and other opioids lead to a spike of cocaine deaths. In 2016 alone, deaths due to cocaine mixed with synthetic opioids reached 4,184—approximately 40% of the total overdoses from cocaine. The other concern is counterfeit pills flooding the streets. If you look at the information provided by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the drugs are very difficult and almost impossible to distinguish from other actual pharmaceutical products.

So while an individual may assume that they are only getting 10 milligrams of Percocet, they may actually be getting some amount of fentanyl, which is more potent and could easily lead to a lethal overdose.

Saving Lives

Awareness of synthetic heroin in the market will save a lot of lives. Essentially, this will include expanding access to lifesaving medication and treatment. Other steps will include loosening regulations around naloxone, which is an anti-overdose medication crucial for preventing further deaths. Naloxone treats an acute overdose, but access to other drugs for treating overdoses for long-term recovery is also vital. These include naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone.

People Watching

As such, awareness will probably lead to low cost or no cost access to rescue medication, which should get into the hands of high-risk individuals, including people leaving the criminal justice system.

Legal Ramification of Synthetic Heroin Makers

There has been a problem with law enforcement as previously, drugs like fentanyl did not fall under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which would have made it illegal. This loophole made the DEA in February to issue a temporary order to place it under Schedule I. This awareness will be essential in making the public realize that it is an illegal drug. In addition, ensuring that those who make the drugs know that they will be sentenced to a 2-year imprisonment with a possible extension of one year. This will make it easier for law enforcement to deal with the explosion of synthetic heroin overdose deaths.

How Is Synthetic Heroin Deadly?

The drugs are so deadly because they are many times more potent than morphine or heroin. For instance, as highlighted before, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and about 50 times more potent than heroin. On the other hand, carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, so it is 10,000 times stronger than morphine. This is why it is so deadly when abused.

Arm And Syringe With Spoon

Synthetic heroin is not produced from the poppy plant and is synthesized entirely via chemical precursors, which makes it easier for drug cartels to produce. A 3 mg dose of fentanyl is deadly, but a lethal dose of heroin may be about 30 mg, which is 10 times fentanyl’s lethal amount.

Due to the chemical structure of the drugs, for example fentanyl, it has a rapid and potent effect on the body and brain. Even in negligible amounts, it can be very dangerous. In essence, it only takes a tiny amount of the drug to cause a deadly reaction. Fentanyl can depress the breathing of a person, which leads to death.


Synthetic heroin has no one specific definition as it is mostly used as an umbrella or blanket term to refer to different substances. Examples include fentanyl and carfentanil. Fentanyl is an opioid pain medication that is 100 times more powerful than morphine but mimics it in terms of action and effects. Carfentanil is derived from fentanyl. Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, which means that it is 10,000 times more potent compared to morphine.

The potency of the drugs is what makes them lethal and the fact that they are synthetically produced. The drugs can be mixed with other narcotics such as cocaine. This means accidental overdose deaths are common. Awareness is necessary to save lives and facilitate treatment of those who have been addicted. We hope this article has adequately addressed what synthetic heroin is, why there is a need to bring awareness to the drugs, and why it is so deadly.

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