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What are Synthetic Opioids

What are synthetic opioids, and how do they affect the body? Read on to learn more about synthetic opioids, their symptoms, and their benefits.


In 2020, over 50,000 people died from opioid addiction in the US. Experts link this high number of deaths to the high risks of opioid abuse because of its several benefits. While opioid addiction is a pressing issue, you must know about other types of opioid drugs. Thankfully this article discusses synthetic opioids, a type of opioid drug.

What are Synthetic Opioids?

Synthetic opioids are substances synthesized in the laboratory to mimic naturally occurring opioids. They act on receptors like normal opioids and will produce the same effects as normal opioids: relieve pain and improve sleep quality and sense of well-being.1

How Does Synthetic Opioids Work?

Synthetic opiates work by binding onto receptors that natural opioids bind onto. They cause the secretion of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter that creates euphoric moments outside the naturally occurring stimulus.2

The continual secretion of dopamine via external stimulus will lead to an overdose of opioids. Consequently, leading to opioid addiction. However, if properly used, synthetic opioids can provide normal opioid effects on the body.

Which Opioids are Synthetic?

There are several opioids you can find, but here is a list of synthetic opioids people are most familiar with: 

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Fentanyl is among the strongest opioids, 50 times stronger than morphine, and commonly used for pain management. The synthetic drug blocks pain signals from getting to the brain, which explains why it is an effective analgesic drug.


Methadone is a synthetic pain reliever like fentanyl; unlike fentanyl, it can be used to treat other opioids addiction. For example, methadone can treat synthetic heroin addiction and synthetic narcotics addiction.


Carfentanil are the most potent synthetic opioids, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, and are used in the veterinary field. Carfentanil is used to manage pain in animals and as analgesic drugs for large animals like elephants.


Tramadols are other types of synthetic opioids used as pain relievers. They are milder than other synthetic drugs, and their effects kick in earlier than others. Tramadols are to be taken with strict measurement of doses to avoid addiction to the drug substance.3

How Do Synthetic Opioids Make You Feel?

Most potent opioids exert their effects differently; likewise, their duration of effects lasts differently.

Pain Relief

Most potent opioids act to block or reduce pain signals that get to the brain, thereby causing pain relief to patients. It explains why opioids or opiates are used in surgical procedures and as treatments for chronic pain.4

Euphoria or Well-being

The euphoric moments produced by opioid usage are due to the surge in dopamine levels in the body. This surge creates exciting and euphoric moments in individuals, making them feel a complete sense of well-being after using the substance.


Opioids like fentanyl are used for relaxation when taken alongside other drugs like amphetamines or benzodiazepines. For this reason, they can be used for meditation or sleeping pills.


Opioids like fentanyl are used for relaxation when taken alongside other drugs like amphetamines or benzodiazepines. For this reason, they can be used for meditation or sleeping pills.


Synthetic opioids and semi-synthetic opioids can cause sleepiness in individuals and rapid transition between stages of sleep. However, if abused, a synthetic opioid can alter sleeping stages, thereby causing insomnia in affected patients.

How are Synthetic Opioids Different from Natural Opioids

The major difference between synthetic opioids and natural opioids is their mode of synthesis. Natural opioids are extracted from poppy plants, while synthetic opioids are synthesized in the laboratory.
On the other hand, synthetic opioids and natural opioids have many things in common. For instance, synthetic and natural opioids have a similar mechanism of action and benefits.

Synthetic vs. Natural Opioids

Synthetic opioids act on opioid receptors in the brain and produce nostalgic effects just like natural opioids. You most probably cannot differentiate synthetic opioids from natural opioids when you use them without their labels.

However, synthetic opioids have stronger and longer effects and half-life than natural opioids.

Signs of Opioid Use Disorder

Signs of opioid use disorder vary from person to person, and they're dependent on the severity of addiction and the opioid used:

  • Obsessing over acquiring the drug
  • Buying opioids online or from strangers
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Chronic constipation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Agitation

What Makes Synthetic Opioids More Dangerous?

Generally, opioids have a higher risk of addiction because of their effects on the body, irrespective of their doses. Simply put, the benefits of opioids are the risk factors for opioid fatalities.

Consequences of Synthetic Opioid Use

Synthetic opioids, when used properly will provide the desired results. When abused, they can lead to severe consequences for individuals.

The consequences of synthetic opioids on individuals vary and can be short or long-term. However, you must know that synthetic opioid abuse has more daring effects on the body than natural opioids.

Are Synthetic Opioids Addictive

Whether synthetic or natural, opioids are highly addictive substances. However, synthetic opioids are more addictive than naturally occurring opioids. And some classes of opioids are more addictive than other classes of opioids too.

Is it Possible to Overdose on Synthetic Opioids?

It is possible to overdose on synthetic opioids if you do not follow the doctor's prescription. Neglecting the doctor's prescription will cause addiction to opioids and alter the opioid mechanism of action in the body.

Symptoms of a Synthetic Opioid Overdose

From the long list of synthetic opioids, you will expect that their symptoms of overdose will differ. Here is the general list of symptoms of synthetic opioid overdose:

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Bluish skin
  • Trouble breathing
  • Limp body

Benefits of Synthetic Opioids

  • No Cultivation: Unlike naturally occurring opioids, synthetic opioids do not need the plating and cultivation of plants for production.
  • Faster Production: The direct production of synthetic opioids using synthetic materials skips the natural processes of opioid extraction. Hence, a much faster production rate for synthetic opioids.
  • Higher Potency: Synthetic drugs have a much higher potency than non-synthetic, and they act faster than non-synthetic drugs.
  • Lower Costs: Aside from the lower costs of production, synthetic drugs are more affordable than non-synthetic drugs. So, you enjoy higher drug potency at a more affordable rate.