What Is Fentanyl

Know the facts, connect with resources, and get one-on-one support to help you address known or suspected substance use with your child.

Fentanyl and similar compounds like carfentanil are powerful synthetic opioids 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Medically, it is used to treat severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. Fentanyl is sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids.[1]

Prescription fentanyl is available as a schedule II prescription drug under such names as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze® in the form of tablets, an injectable liquid, lozenges and transdermal patches.

Along with other similarly potent synthetic opioids, fentanyl also shows up in illicit forms as a powder, spiked on blotter paper, mixed with or substituted for heroin and other street drugs, and carries a high risk of overdose and fatality. According to the CDC, the death rate of synthetic opioids increased by 72.2% from 2014 to 2015.

Understand the risks of fentanyl

Opioid receptors are found in the same areas of the brain that control our breathing rate. In high enough doses, opioids can cause breathing to stop completely. The high potency of fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids increases this risk of overdose substantially, especially if a person who uses street drugs or illegally purchased prescription drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains these substances. Synthetic opioids sold illicitly can be mixed with heroin or cocaine, which amplifies its potency and potential danger. Overdoses of these drugs may require higher doses of naloxone to successfully reverse the overdose.[1]

How to help a loved one with fentanyl

If you suspect your child or a loved one is struggling with opioid use or addiction explore the following resources.