Most addictive substances fall into one of two categories: stimulants or depressants. “Uppers” refer to stimulants while “downers” refer to depressants. These terms are attributed to the physical and mental reactions a user experiences while intoxicated by a specific substance. As stimulants, uppers produce an increase in energy, feelings of invincibility, and sharpened focus while downers act as depressants, inducing lethargy, feelings of euphoria, and relief from discomfort. 

While the immediate reactions are opposite in nature, both uppers and downers are equally capable of inflicting damage to the user.  Complications associated with uppers include rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and aggression whereas downers contribute to breathing suppression, low blood pressure, and impairment of motor skills. 

Is Fentanyl an Upper or Downer?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and Central Nervous System depressant, classifying it as a downer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids increased over 16% from 2018 to 2019, with over 36,000 fatal overdoses involving synthetic opioids reported in 2019.

Drug Dependency

Side Effects of Fentanyl

Fentanyl produces a high in which the user experiences: 

Feelings of Euphoria




Pain relief 

When used in excess or for a prolonged period of time, there is a possibility of developing the following:

Respiratory failure

Low blood pressure 




drug addiction

Dangers of Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl is largely responsible for the recent increase in overdose fatalities within the United States.  Being 100 times stronger than morphine, fentanyl is the second most potent opioid in the world, and, according to the World Health Organization, one of the most deadly. Overdose fatalities have increased 120% within the past decade and two-thirds of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2018 involved synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl. 

 Fentanyl on its own can be fatal; however, a more sinister danger lies in the illegal reproduction of the drug which is often used to ‘cut’ heroin. In cutting heroin, the manufacturer blends powdered fentanyl into heroin in order to produce it in larger quantities. Unaware of its composition, the user is likely to fatally miscalculate their dosage. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the increase in deaths involving heroin is driven by the use of fentanyl. The graph below shows the increase in fentanyl-related deaths compared to others in the past five years. 

Is Fentanyl an Upper or Downer?

As a depressant, Fentanyl negatively affects the body’s respiratory system. One of the main causes of death upon Fentanyl ingestion is breathing cessation. As stated by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, fentanyl is a respiratory depressant – it interferes with the user’s ability to breathe. Because it is so concentrated people can misjudge the dose for themselves to a dangerous degree. This lack of oxygen simultaneously impacts other organs, such as the brain, which can potentially cause seizure, stroke or significant brain damage. 

Asheville Recovery Center Can Help  

Fentanyl is a highly addictive depressant that is responsible for fatal overdoses every day in the United States. It is important to seek help immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with this addiction. At Asheville Recovery Center, treatment specialists have developed a unique, hybrid model of treatment which combines a traditional 12-step program with holistic rehabilitation. A multitude of services, programs, and therapies are offered, including the Partial Hospitalization Program, Residential-style treatment, outpatient rehabilitation, and more.

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