What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.1,2 It is a schedule II prescription drug,3 and it is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery.4 It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids.5 In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.5,6 Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Tango and Cash.
Why is fentanyl dangerous?
Opioid receptors are also found in the areas of the brain that control breathing rate. High doses of opioids, especially potent opioids such as fentanyl, can cause breathing to stop completely, which can lead to death.9 The high potency of fentanyl greatly increases risk of overdose, especially if a person who uses drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains fentanyl.6,10 Fentanyl sold on the street can be mixed with heroin or cocaine, which markedly amplifies its potency and potential dangers.11
The medication naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that reverses opioid overdose and restores normal respiration.12Overdoses of fentanyl should be treated immediately with naloxone and may require higher doses to successfully reverse the overdose.10,13
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