What Is Safer, Fentanyl Vs. Morphine?

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Last Medical Reviewer On: January 2, 2023
Updated On: Jan 2, 2023
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Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po Chang Hsu MD, MS

Fentanyl Vs. Morphine
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    What you will learn
    • Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.
    • Due to its increased strength, fentanyl is often used in a hospital setting to treat severe pain.
    • Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
    • Side effects of fetanyl include pain relief, a strong sense of euphoria or happiness, drowsiness, nausea, sedation, and respiratory depression.
    • While morphine is an opiate and has addictive properties, it does not come with the same extreme potency and near-immediate dependency.

    Fentanyl and morphine are both prescription-only opioid painkillers. However, because fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine, morphine is the safer choice when it comes to pain medication. Due to its increased strength, fentanyl is often used in a hospital setting to treat severe pain, whereas morphine has other uses.

    Fentanyl Drug Facts

    Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid substance that has been approved by the FDA for treating severe pain. This fast-acting substance has a short duration timeline and produces fewer histamines than morphine.

    The opioid is administered as a transdermal patch, oral tablets, or as a “fentanyl lollipop.” In a hospital setting, this is typically prescribed for severe pain, such as in cancer or end-of-life patients, to make them more comfortable. Injectable forms of Fentanyl, such as Sublimaze, are also available.

    Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), indicating its high potential for dependence and misuse. As an opioid pain medication, fentanyl binds to your brain’s opioid receptors, which are in charge of controlling emotions and pain awareness. Due to its high potency, fentanyl is a highly addictive substance with a high potential for abuse.

    What Is Fentanyl Made Of?

    As a powerfully effective and yet dangerous substance, it’s not uncommon for concerned persons to ask the question: “What is fentanyl made of?” This fast-acting substance is a synthetic opioid primarily manufactured in South America with chemical compounds from Asia.

    The chemical makeup of fentanyl is (N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4- piperidinyl]propanamide). This substance is solid but water-soluble and is produced in a crystallized or powdered form.[1]

    What Are Fentanyl Use Side Effects?

    The effects of a fentanyl dose come on quickly and last only a short time. This effect makes fentanyl highly addicting, even from the first dose.

    Side effects include pain relief, a strong sense of euphoria or happiness, drowsiness, nausea, sedation, and respiratory depression. In the event of an overdose, fentanyl can lead to respiratory arrest, a coma or unconsciousness, and even death.

    Fentanyl Use Methods

    Outside of the hospital setting, fentanyl is also a highly dangerous illegal street drug that has led to thousands of accidental overdoses in the last few years. Fentanyl misuse and overdose has been a significant contributing factor to the opioid epidemic in the U.S.

    Due to its extreme potency, it is often used to cut or mix with other illicit substances. This leads to a dangerous combination that could lead to unconsciousness, overdose, and death.

    Fentanyl can be injected, taken orally by tablet, and snorted or sniffed. In some cases, fentanyl patches can even be frozen and held under the tongue or on the side of the cheek for quick oral absorption.

    What Are The Street Names For Fentanyl?

    The high potency and fast-acting nature of fentanyl make it a highly desirable but illegal street drug. It’s also commonly used as a cutting agent and mixed with other substances. Due to the powerful strength of the drug, this is an extremely dangerous practice.

    Some of the common street names for fentanyl include apache, jackpot, tango and cash, friend, goodfellas, murder 8, great bear, he-man, king ivory, China girl, Chinatown, and dance fever.[2]

    Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms


    The onset and severity of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on how long one has used fentanyl, the time of the last use, and the strength of the dose. It could be dangerous to quit fentanyl cold turkey if it has been taken regularly.

    A medically assisted detox program or addiction treatment center will implement a taper schedule to give you the safest path to restoring balance in your body and your life.

    Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:[3]

    • Flu-like symptoms (runny nose, watery eyes, fatigue)
    • Restlessness
    • Anxiety
    • Chills and clammy skin
    • Irritability
    • Aches and pains (muscles and joints)
    • Tremors and twitching
    • Increased heart rate and high blood pressure
    • Increased pain
    • Stomach cramps
    • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Suicidal thoughts

    Experiencing withdrawal can be painful, uncomfortable, and frightening. If not properly attended to, it can even be fatal. Don’t attempt to detox from harmful substances like fentanyl on your own. Seek professional care and treatment at a reliable recovery center near you.

    How To Identify A Fentanyl Overdose

    Here are some of the signs and symptoms to look for if you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing an overdose of fentanyl:

    • Pupillary size discrepancy (also known as pinpoint pupils)
    • Clammy skin
    • Unconsciousness
    • Difficulty breathing or respiratory depression

    Immediately contact emergency medical care if any or all of these symptoms are present.

    What Is Safer: Fentanyl vs Morphine? The Final Answer

    A physician is the only person who can truly answer this question for each patient. However, in most cases, you will find that morphine is the safer option for treating pain over the more volatile fentanyl. While morphine is an opiate and has addictive properties, it does not come with the same extreme potency and near-immediate dependency.

    Morphine Drug Facts

    Morphine is an opiate substance derived from opium and is a nonsynthetic narcotic. Like fentanyl, the DEA has this drug listed as a Schedule II narcotic under the Controlled Substance Act, indicating its high potential for addiction and abuse.

    Morphine is a naturally occurring painkiller that is administered in extended-release tablets, liquid injections, or capsules. Like fentanyl, it reduces pain by changing how the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) receive pain signals. In a hospital setting, morphine is used for acute pain and chronic pain.[4]

    Morphine Side Effects

    The side effects of morphine use are primarily mild when used as prescribed. They include:

    • Drowsiness
    • Chronic stomach aches and constipation
    • Dry mouth
    • Painful urination
    • Sweating
    • Headache
    • Moodiness and nervousness
    • Dilated pupils
    • Some of the more severe morphine side effects include:
    • Depressed heart rate
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Slow or shallow breathing
    • Decreased levels of consciousness

    Alert your provider or seek emergency medical care if you experience any or all of these severe symptoms.

    Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms

    Symptoms of morphine withdrawal include a variety of physical and psychological symptoms that will vary from person to person. Your individual experience would depend largely on overall physical health, mental health, and frequency of use.

    • Common morphine withdrawal symptoms include:
    • Increased mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, or hallucinations
    • Drastic weight changes
    • Sleep pattern disruption
    • Flu-like symptoms (runny nose, nausea, vomiting, trembling, sweating, etc.)
    • Changes in blood pressure
    • Body aches and pains

    How To Identify A Morphine Overdose

    Due to its high potential for dependence and misuse, morphine users can begin to develop a tolerance. This can lead to increasing doses or more frequent doses in order to achieve the same effects as early use.

    In these cases, the risk of overdose and even fatality is exponentially greater. The following are common morphine overdose symptoms to watch out for.

    • Depressed (slow) or difficult breathing
    • Decreased level of consciousness or fainting
    • Blurry vision
    • Unconsciousness
    • Limpness
    • Clamminess
    • Pinpoint pupils
    • Depressed heartbeat

    If any or all of these symptoms are present in yourself or a loved one, immediately contact emergency medical care.

    Substance Use Treatment

    Dealing with injury-related or chronic pain can be a debilitating experience. Opioid and opiate painkillers, while intended to help, can lead to many other concerning effects with long-term use.

    But it doesn’t have to stay that way. With reliable and trustworthy detox placement services, partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, and long-term aftercare plans, you or your loved one can restore the balance in your body and your life with professional support.

    By attending evidence-based therapy and holistic treatment, you will be equipped with the medication support and coping skills needed to safely navigate detox and withdrawal. These proven systems will help you establish a safe and healthy foundation for a future free of substance use.

    Get Help With Opioid Painkiller Dependence At Epiphany Wellness

    You can overcome fentanyl or morphine dependence. We can help. Contact Epiphany Wellness today to start your healing journey.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Fentanyl vs Morphine


    Why is fentanyl faster than morphine?
    How much stronger is fentanyl vs. morphine?
    What is the equivalent of fentanyl in morphine?
    Does fentanyl have the same side effects as morphine?

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