Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid, much stronger than other opioids like oxycodone, and is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. All forms of fentanyl can be dangerous and it’s important to know the differences.
- In its prescription form, fentanyl is used medically to treat severe or long-term pain in patients who need continuous relief.
- Prescription fentanyl is not usually linked to most synthetic opioid harms or overdoses.
However, fentanyl is also illegally manufactured and sold, and is one of the most common drugs associated with overdose deaths in the United States. In Ventura County, from 2019 to 2020 alone, fentanyl contributed significantly to a 45% increase in opioid-related fatal overdoses.
- In most cases, illegal fentanyl is made in Mexico, often supplied with ingredients from China, and the exact formula and potency are often unknown until it’s too late.
- Some drug dealers mix fentanyl with other drugs such as heroin or cocaine, so people might snort, swallow, smoke, or inject it without knowing.
- Fentanyl analogs, such a carfentanil, are chemically related to fentanyl, and are often more toxic.
- Illegal fentanyl and its counterpart, fake pills, are fueling the epidemic of drug overdoses in the United States.
The illicit form of fentanyl is also sold in counterfeit or fake pills, which are disguised as other drugs, frequently as round, blue pills. The deception can be deadly if someone believes they are taking a harmless pill.
- One in four fake pills tested by DEA labs contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.
- Fake pills are sold online and on apps that are popular with teens, who may believe they are buying something safe for anxiety or depression.
- Teens especially may believe that all medicine is safe and be unaware that the pill that appears safe is actually deadly.
Learn more: Preventing Overdose