15 Facts About Fentanyl

07 Feb 15 Facts About Fentanyl

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If you watch the news, you’ve likely heard of fentanyl. And if you’ve heard of fentanyl, you probably know it’s a dangerous drug causing addiction, overdose, and death for tens of thousands of Americans every year.

But if you’re like most people, you may not know much more about the drug than that. Things like the drug’s history, why it was first invented, what forms it comes in, and its symptoms.

That’s why we put together this list of 15 facts about fentanyl. Continue reading to learn more.

15 Facts About Fentanyl

When it comes to fentanyl, the facts can be pretty shocking. If you’ve been affected by fentanyl addiction, you know the signs and symptoms of fentanyl abuse aren’t pretty.

We’ll get into all that below.

First, for those who aren’t familiar with the drug (or those who just want a quick brush up), we’ll answer the questions: what is fentanyl?

Put simply, fentanyl is a synthetic, analgesic opiate that acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. Fentanyl is similar to morphine, which is another synthetic opiate.

So now that we know what fentanyl is, read on to learn the 15 facts.

1) Fentanyl Is a Schedule II Substance

Law enforcement has classified fentanyl as a schedule II substance. This means that though fentanyl has medical uses, it is recognized to have a high addiction potential.

This also means that possessing fentanyl without a prescription is illegal and could get you in trouble with the law. It also means that manufacturing fentanyl (or even some of its precursors) is illegal as well.

Therefore, if you’re caught with an illegal drug that has been laced with fentanyl, you could be charged for possessing both drugs. This is just another reason to say no.

2) Fentanyl Drug Abuse is on the Rise

You may know that opioid use and abuse has been on the rise. In fact, you may know that many health officials have warned that we’re facing an opioid epidemic.

What you may not know is that synthetic opioid use is also on the rise. Most of the rise in opioid use is being driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Fentanyl is extremely addictive and has a very high risk of overdose, which means tens of thousands of people are putting themselves at risk every year.

In addition, fentanyl is being used to cut other drugs, such as other opiates and even cocaine. This means that a person using these substances could be taking and potentially having complications from fentanyl laced drugs.

If you want to learn about the demographics most at risk for fentanyl use, we’ll cover that below.

3) Fentanyl is the Most Potent Opioid

The reason fentanyl has such risk of drug addiction and overdose is its extreme potency.

It’s estimated that the effects of fentanyl are 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. This means just a tiny amount of fentanyl can cause complications from over intoxication or overdose.

In fact, the DEA stated that fentanyl can cause overdoses from just 2 mg in the average person. That means taking even a small dose of another drug laced with fentanyl could pose serious problems.

4) Fentanyl Was Created to Relieve Chronic Pain

Fentanyl wasn’t created with the intent to cut street drugs. In fact, fentanyl was created in order to relieve chronic pain in patients with debilitating conditions.

Patients like cancer patients, the terminally ill, and those that had built a tolerance to other opiates due to chronic conditions. In fact, many patients are legally prescribed fentanyl to allow them to live happier, pain-free lives today.

But, because fentanyl is a synthetic (meaning it can be made in a lab), it can be easily made and distributed illegally. Much of the illegally manufactured fentanyl in America is made in China and shipped here.

We’ll cover the major issues with stopping fentanyl use in another fact below.

5) Fentanyl is Available in a Number of Forms

Because fentanyl was designed as a prescription, it can be administered in a number of ways.

These include a transdermal patch meant to be worn on the skin, a lozenge, an injectable, a tab meant for beneath the tongue, and pills.

Generally, illegally manufactured fentanyl is a white powder that is then made into pills or cut into other drugs.

When used illegally, users will generally use orally, by injecting, or, though less common, by smoking.

6) Fentanyl is the Leading Cause of Overdose Death in America

In 2017, there were more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths. Of those 72,000, nearly 30,000 of them were estimated to be from fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (other synthetic opioids).

This was a sharp increase in the number of overdose deaths from fentanyl from the previous year.

Due to this and an increase in the amount of illegally manufactured fentanyl seized by police, law enforcement officials have concluded that the rise in overdose deaths is clearly caused by illegally manufactured fentanyl.

7) Fentanyl Addiction Has Extreme Symptoms

There are some severe symptoms that go along with fentanyl use and abuse. In addition to the risk of overdose and death, those using fentanyl may experience some of the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • Severe constipation
  • Hives, itching, and other skin reactions
  • Urination problems
  • Problems sleeping
  • Pain and muscle cramps

As addiction worsens, the symptoms will too. In fact, symptoms can get much worse than the above and include violent mood swings, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

In addition, those recovering from addiction can experience some severe fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.

That’s why those who are using or abusing fentanyl should seek help immediately. It’s well known that fentanyl users are much more likely to recover successfully with the help of a trusted drug treatment center by their side.

Of course, there are other symptoms too, some of which we’ll cover later in this article.

8) It Also Has Some Extreme Complications

In addition to having extreme symptoms, there are some extreme complications that could come along with using fentanyl.

Just because you’ve used or abused fentanyl and haven’t experienced any of these symptoms, doesn’t mean that you won’t.

The symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Problems swallowing
  • Shallow or labored breathing
  • Other respiratory issues

Again, this isn’t a complete list, so if you’re affected by fentanyl addiction, contact one of our recovery specialists immediately.

9) Fentanyl Death Rates Have Risen Across Every Demographic

If you think your community is safe from the dangers of fentanyl, think again. The research shows that fentanyl death rates have increased substantially across every demographic.

However, there are some demographics that are much more likely to be affected by fentanyl overdoses. We’ll get into some of that in the next fact.

But before we do, it’s important to note that just because someone falls outside the main demographics affected by fentanyl use, it doesn’t mean they won’t be affected.

That’s one of the most dangerous and pernicious problems with this drug. It also means if you or a loved one is affected, you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help.

10) Males Aged 25-44 Are at the Highest Risk

As we mentioned above, fentanyl overdose deaths are on the rise across all demographics.

But one demographic that’s long been at the top of the list of those affected are males aged 25-44.

There’s been a lot of theories into why this demographic is most drastically affected, but the fact remains they are.

In fact, in 2017, it was found that 27 out of every 100,000 males aged 25-44 were killed by a synthetic opiate overdose. That’s not 27 out of every 100,000 males aged 25-44  who used fentanyl, but 27 out of every 100,000 males aged 25-44 in America.

That’s a huge number, and the fact that fentanyl use is on the rise means that number is only going to get bigger.

11) Illegally Manufactured Fentanyl is on the Rise

Law enforcement has consistently shown that the amount of illegally manufactured fentanyl is increasing. Due to the low cost and ease of manufacturing it, the ease in smuggling it, and it’s highly addictive nature, fentanyl is considered a gold mine among drug dealers.

This makes it an obvious choice for drug manufacturers, smugglers, and dealers. In fact, during 2013-2014 fentanyl submissions in the US increased by 426 percent.

In this same timeframe, synthetic opioid deaths increased by 79 percent.

The rate of illegally manufactured fentanyl has continued to rise and hit unprecedented levels in 2016. Law enforcement hasn’t released the data for 2018, but chances are good they’re higher than they were in 2017.

12) Fentanyl Prescription Rates Have Remained Stable

Though illegally manufactured fentanyl is sharply on the rise, fentanyl made and prescribed for medical purposes has remained fairly stable.

This is just another proof point that much of the synthetic opioid crisis (as seen by the incredible numer of overdose deaths) is driven by the manufacture and trade of illegal fentanyl.

13) Fentanyl May Pose a Bigger Problem in the Eastern States

This isn’t a well-known fact, but some think that fentanyl and overdose from fentanyl may be a bigger risk in the eastern states?

Though this may seem confusing, the answer is actually pretty simple.

Historically, heroin sales have been divided at the Mississippi River, with “black tar” style heroin being sold in the states west of the Mississippi, and white powder heroin being sold on the eastern states.

Because fentanyl is a white powder, it is easier to add to white powder heroin without the end user knowing. In addition, white powder heroin could be replaced all-together with fentanyl, meaning the user would be taking a much larger (and possibly lethal) dose than what they’re expecting.

14) Officials Call for a Multi-Tiered Approach

As with all drug policy and personal and social addiction problems, the synthetic opioid crisis is a problem without a clear cut solution.

Because of the interrelated nature of the situation, the problem must be approached by many sides and from many perspectives.

That’s why officials call for a multi-tiered approach to ending the synthetic opioid crisis. This means they’re calling for a response from the public health, law enforcement, and social services sphere.

Just like addiction recovery, our society needs to take a comprehensive approach in solving this issue.

15) Fentanyl’s Effects Resemble Heroin

Because fentanyl is similar to heroin, it makes sense the effects are similar. This is true both in the perceived effects from the user’s perspective, but also from the perspective of looking at the brain.

Fentanyl acts on the brain by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors. The opioid receptors are incredibly important for normal bodily functions, such as controlling pain and emotions.

This is why fentanyl and other opioids can cause mood swings, irritability, and other psychological problems.

When fentanyl binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, dopamine is released. This is what’s responsible for making the user feel good. It can also be responsible for causing some of the symptoms below:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Sedation

For more information, we strongly recommend reading further about the differences of heroin vs fentanyl.

There’s Still Hope for Those Addicted to Fentanyl

Even though fentanyl addiction can be an extremely debilitating and dangerous condition, there is a way out. The first and most important step to take in recovering is to ask for help.

You can call one of our addiction specialists today, who will point you down the path to recovery.

Or you may be concerned about a loved one you suspect is addicted to fentanyl. In this situation, confronting them may not be easy, but it could save their life.

If you want to learn more about the dangers of fentanyl, continue reading The Different Types of Fentanyl Terrorizing Georgia.


“Fentanyl Facts: Important Things to Know.” Kids Help Phone. 15 Mar. 2019. https://kidshelpphone.ca/get-info/fentanyl-facts-important-things-know/

“The F-Word: 3 Fast Fentanyl Facts to Remember.” Drugabuse.com. 15 Mar. 2019. https://drugabuse.com/the-f-word-3-fast-fentanyl-facts-to-remember/

“Fentanyl.” NIDA. Feb. 2019. 15 Mar. 2019. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl

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