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.

    According to the CDC, deaths from fentanyl poisoning are fastest growing among 14- to 23-year-olds. The presence of fentanyl both in counterfeit pills and in illicit street drugs poses a grave threat to the safety of teens and adults alike.
    In the event of an opioid overdose (including heroin and prescribed pain medications), naloxone can reverse an overdose and save a life.
    Deaths from overdoses reached a staggering 100,300 in the 12-month period ending in April 2021. This represents nearly a 30% increase compared to the previous time period; largely driven by fentanyl. If your son or daughter has an opioid addiction, here are five things to know to keep your child safe.
    Learn more
    Evidence supports the use of naltrexone, buprenorphine or methadone coupled with counseling, as the preferred treatment for addiction to heroin and other opioids.
    Learn more
    Watch this video series to help you understand the relationship between (and risks of) opioid addiction and IV drug use, and how to best to help your child.
    Learn more

    Last Updated

    May 2023

    [1]NIDA. “Fentanyl.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3 Jun. 2016, Accessed 1 Nov. 2018.