How Dangerous Is Fentanyl?


How has fentanyl, a drug that was largely unknown until a few years ago, become one of the deadliest illicit drugs? According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017, 842 of the 1,487 overdose deaths involved in New York City involved fentanyl (55% of overdoses), and the numbers are rising across the country. With such disconcerting statistics, it is important to understand what fentanyl is and how an inpatient drug program can help those who are using.

What is Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid similar to drugs like oxycontin, hydrocodone, and heroin. It was developed by Janssen Pharmaceutica in 1959. According to the CDC, pharmaceutical grade fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is generally prescribed as a high-level pain reliever for medical sedation during surgery where anesthesia is not needed or cannot be tolerated by the patient, and for individuals with painful late-stage cancers.

As a street drug, fentanyl is highly sought due to its low cost and strong results including euphoria, relaxation and pain relief. However, it comes with a host of dangerous side effects including nausea, dizziness, and respiratory distress.

Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Most of the abused fentanyl in the United States comes from China. Fentanyl production in China is largely unregulated resulting in products with widely ranging dosages. This non-pharmaceutical grade fentanyl (NPF) is sold in various forms including pure fentanyl, analogs, and as an adulterating agent in more expensive, but fake prescription drugs. At the higher range of the opioid strength scale when produced at pharmaceutical grade, NPF can be deadly.

Fentanyl is injected orally in pill, tablet or blotter paper form, snorted, or injected. There are myths about fentanyl ingestion, such as the police officer who rubbed his hand against a powdery substance on his shirt, accidentally encountering fentanyl. However, the drug does not pass into the blood stream through contact with skin. Similar claims about marijuana-laced fentanyl are yet to be borne out. Even so, it is cheap, widely available and very dangerous in the known illegal market forms.

What to do about fentanyl addiction?

Like many opioids, Fentanyl is extremely addicting even in small doses. If you or a loved one are using Fentanyl, an inpatient drug program is the best option to get clean and off the narcotic. An inpatient drug program may last between 30 and 90 days, although longer stays may be required depending on the individual. This may seem like a long time, but treatment is imperative when fentanyl abuse is taking place.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Overdose Deaths Involving Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogs — New York City, 2000–2017.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Increase in Fentanyl-Related Overdose Deaths – Florida and Ohio, 2013-2015.