Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. It is used as a prescription pain reliever and also sold illegally. Illegally, fentanyl is sold as a powder, dropped on blotter paper like small candies, in eye droppers or nasal sprays, or made into pills that mimic real prescription opioids. Fentanyl is often combined with heroin or sold disguised as heroin to cut costs for illicit drug dealers. Since fentanyl is so potent, this can be fatal to users that unknowingly take fentanyl. Fentanyl is a Schedule II narcotic.


Fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors. Like other opioids, this action targets areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. Fentanyl and other opioids may become addictive when taken many times, diminishing sensitivity to the drug.

Fentanyl's effects include:
  • extreme happiness
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • sedation
  • problems breathing
  • unconsciousness

Due to fentanyl’s high potency, overdosing on the drug is not uncommon. When people overdose on fentanyl, their breathing slows or stops, leading to a lack of oxygen reaching the brain, a condition known as hypoxia. Hypoxia may lead to a coma, permanent brain damage, or death.

Overdose Resources

Fentanyl and opioid overdose may be intercepted immediately by using a medicine called Naloxone (or Narcan). Naloxone works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of opioid drugs. Due to fentanyl’s potency, more than one administration of Naloxone may be required to reverse its effects. If you suspect someone you know has overdosed on fentanyl or any drug, it is most important to call 911.

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