What is Fentanyl?

What is Fentanyl?

Acetyl fentanyl, similar to the Schedule II opioid fentanyl, is a potent opioid analgesic. Recently, it has been linked to a number of overdose deaths in the United States. Acetyl fentanyl is not a part of most illicit drug screens and may remain undetected in many of these cases.

Illicit Uses:

As a opioid receptor agonist, acetyl fentanyl may serve as a direct substitute for heroin or other opioid receptor agonist substances in opioid dependent individuals. Acetyl fentanyl has been detected in tablets that mimic pharmaceutical opiate products, in powder form and spiked on blotter papers.

According to DEA’s STARLiMS and National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS), federal, state and local forensic laboratories reported 10 exhibits identified as acetyl fentanyl in 2013 and 40 exhibits identified as acetyl fentanyl in 2014.

Fentanyl is abused for its intense euphoric effects. Fentanyl can serve as a direct substitute for heroin in opioid dependent individuals. However, fentanyl is a very dangerous substitute for heroin because it is much more potent than heroin and results in frequent overdoses that can lead to respiratory depression and death.

Fentanyl patches are abused by removing the gel contents from the patches and then injecting or ingesting these contents. Patches have also been frozen, cut into pieces and placed under the tongue or in the cheek cavity for drug absorption through the oral mucosa. Used patches are attractive to abusers as a large percentage of fentanyl remains in these patches even after a 3-day use. Fentanyl oral transmucosal lozenges and fentanyl injectables are also diverted and abused. Abuse of fentanyl initially appeared in mid-1970s and has increased in recent years. There have been reports of deaths associated with abuse of fentanyl products.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), emergency department visits associated with non-medical use of fentanyl increased from an estimated 15,947 in 2007 to an estimated 20,034 in 2011.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Medical Examiners 2013 Annual Report, fentanyl was identified in 251 deceased persons in Florida in 2012 and increased 16.3% to being identified in 292 deceased persons in 2013. Of the 292 decedents with fentanyl identified, fentanyl caused the death in 185 of those persons (63.4%), which is a 36% increase from 2012.  

Currently, DEA is aware of at least 52 confirmed fatalities involving acetyl fentanyl in the United States in 2013-2015. Fatalities have been confirmed in California, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

How Fentanyl Works:fentanyl in a bottle used to mix with heroin

Fentanyl acts upon specific the opiate receptors in your brain and communicates through the spinal cord to decrease pain and to reduce emotional response to pain. The action of fentanyl is similar to drugs like morphine.

Why is Fentanyl Used?

Fentanyl is used to relieve chronic severe pain. Fentanyl has also been prescribed for breakthrough pain. Fentanyl is typically used when all other pain medications stop working for the person who is suffering from chronic pain.

What are the side effects of Fentanyl?

Fentanyl has many side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Feelings of elation (euphoria).
  • Dry mouth.
  • Difficulty urinating.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Constipation, which may be severe

Fentanyl should be used with caution by anyone who has lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.

Fentanyl can cause your body to expect this medicine daily and can cause a dependence on the drug further putting the user at risk of addiction.


Over the past few years, there have been hundreds of confirmed deaths associated with fentanyl-laced heroin many states.— Some of these states include Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and Michigan.






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