What is Sufentanil?

What is Sufentanil

Many people think of fentanyl as the most potent opioid known to man. While fentanyl is certainly among the strongest opioid medications, there is a substance that is more potent with an increased risk of complications; sufentanil.

Sufentanil is the active ingredient in the name-brand medication Dsuvia. It is one of the most potent opioids, posing a serious risk of dependency, addiction, and overdose. Because of its high potency and risks, sufentanil is not used outside of hospitals.

While sufentanil is safe to take in a hospital setting under the direction of a doctor, it is extremely risky to abuse this substance. However, some people might illegally sell sufentanil on the street.





What is Sufentanil Used For?

Sufentanil is a derivative of fentanyl and is marketed under the name Dsuvia. This substance is most commonly used as an intravenous or epidural injectable to aid in anesthesia during surgery or help women going through labor.

Sufentanil may also be found in a sublingual tablet in hospital settings.[1]

Key features of sufentanil include its high potency and rapid onset of action. It is estimated to be 5 to 10 times more potent than fentanyl, another potent synthetic opioid. Due to its potency, sufentanil is typically administered in very small doses.

Sufentanil is never used for long-term management of chronic pain conditions because of its potency and propensity for addiction. Sufentanil is only used on patients with a high tolerance for less potent opioids and those who require something stronger for surgery or anesthesia.

It’s important to note that sufentanil is a potent medication and needs to be administered with caution. Its use should be closely monitored by medical professionals due to the risk of respiratory depression (slowed breathing), sedation, and potential for misuse or dependence.

Side Effects of Sufentanil

Sufentanil can cause an array of serious side effects depending on the dosage given and your tolerance for opioids.

If you experience any of the following side effects when taking sufentanil, contact your doctor immediately:[2]

  • Agitation or confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Hives, skin rash, or itching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Muscle stiffness or overactive reflexes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • Excessive sweating or shivering
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Over excitement
  • Pale blue lips, fingernails, or skin

Many of these symptoms indicate that you are experiencing an allergic reaction or an overdose of sufentanil. These side effects can be life-threatening and often require emergency medical services.

What is the Difference Between Sufentanil and Fentanyl?

Sufentanil is a derivative of fentanyl, which means it is very similar on a chemical level. However, sufentanil is known to be 5 to 10 times more potent than fentanyl. This means this substance is incredibly strong, as fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than other opioids like heroin and morphine.

While sufentanil is more dangerous to abuse than fentanyl, it is more effective in surgeries and anesthetic settings. This makes it favorable among doctors who are performing surgery or assisting a woman during childbirth.

Despite sufentanil being more dangerous to abuse than fentanyl, it is not as common because sufentanil is only provided in hospital settings, making it difficult for drug traffickers to get their hands on it. While there is very little data on sufentanil overdoses, fentanyl claimed the lives of about 70,601 people during the year 2021.[3]

Due to its higher potency, sufentanil may have a more pronounced impact on respiratory depression and other side effects compared to fentanyl, especially if not dosed and administered properly. On the other hand, sufentanil generally has a shorter duration of action compared to fentanyl, which can influence the choice of medication based on the length of pain relief needed.

The Risks of Abusing Sufentanil

When sufentanil is administered by a doctor, it is carefully titrated to ensure that you are not receiving too much for your body to handle. However, if you were to abuse sufentanil it would be difficult to accurately dose yourself, and abusing the drug could lead to a life-threatening overdose.

The signs of a sufentanil overdose include:

  • Slowed or difficulty breathing
  • Pinpointed pupils
  • The bluish tint of lips, fingernails, or skin
  • Irregular or stopped breathing
  • Decreased levels of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

Because sufentanil can lead to fatal overdoses, you should never use this substance without a healthcare provider’s direction and assistance.

In addition to overdoses, sufentanil can lead to the development of a substance use disorder. Because it is an opioid, it will affect the reward and pleasure system of your brain. This will cause you to crave sufentanil, leading to a vicious cycle of opioid addiction that significantly increases your risk of life-threatening effects.

Find Help for Sufentanil Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one abuse sufentanil or any other type of opioid, professional addiction treatment is necessary. The opioid epidemic in America is continuing to worsen each year, claiming the lives of tens of thousands of people. Thankfully, opioid rehab programs can provide you with the tools and support you need to achieve and maintain long-term sobriety from opioids like sufentanil.

Moving Mountains Recovery uses a holistic and individualized approach to recovery to help each client embrace a sober lifestyle. We are committed to clinical excellence, which is why every client receives a custom-tailored treatment program that is uniquely designed by our clinical and medical team to meet his or her needs.

To learn more about how Moving Mountains Recovery Center can help you overcome sufentanil addiction, contact us today.


  1. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Sufentanil Label, Retrieved August 2023 From https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/209128s000lbl.pdf
  2. Science Direct: Sufentanil, Retrieved August 2023 From https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/sufentanil
  3. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Drug Overdose Death Rates, Retrieved August 2023 From https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
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