WHAT IS FENTANYL?
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by
the Food and Drug Administration for use as an analgesic
(pain relief) and anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times
more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent
than heroin as an analgesic.
What are common street names?
Common street names include:
Apache, China Girl, China Town, Dance Fever, Friend,
Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Jackpot, King Ivory,
Murder 8, and Tango & Cash.
WHAT IS ITS ORIGIN?
Fentanyl was first developed in 1959 and introduced in the
1960s as an intravenous anesthetic. It is legally manufactured
and distributed in the United States. Licit fentanyl
pharmaceutical products are diverted via theft, fraudulent
prescriptions, and illicit distribution by patients, physicians,
From 2005 through 2007, both fatal overdoses associated
with abuse of clandestinely produced fentanyl and law
enforcement encounters increased markedly. According
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there
were 1,013 fatal overdoses recorded from April 2005 to
March 2007. More recently, there has been a re-emergence
of trafficking, distribution, and abuse of illicitly produced
fentanyl with an associated dramatic increase in overdose
What does it look like?
Fentanyl pharmaceutical products are currently available in the
following dosage forms: oral transmucosal lozenges commonly
referred to as fentanyl “lollipops” (Actiq), effervescent buccal
tablets (Fentora), sublingual tablets (Abstral), sublingual sprays
(Subsys), nasal sprays (Lazanda), transdermal patches (Duragesic),
and injectable formulations.
Clandestinely produced fentanyl is encountered either as a powder
or in counterfeit tablets and is sold alone or in combination with
other drugs such as heroin or cocaine.
How is it abused?
Fentanyl can be injected, snorted/sniffed, smoked, taken orally by
pill or tablet, and spiked onto blotter paper. Fentanyl patches are
abused by removing its gel contents 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.
Illicitly produced fentanyl is sold alone or in combination
with heroin and other substances and has been identified in
counterfeit pills, mimicking pharmaceutical drugs such as
oxycodone. According to the National Forensic Laboratory
Information System, reports on fentanyl (both pharmaceutical
and clandestinely produced) increased from nearly
5,400 in 2014 to over 14,600 in 2015, as reported by federal,
state, and local forensic laboratories in the United States.
What is the effect on the body?
Fentanyl, similar to other commonly used opioid
analgesics(e.g., morphine), produces effects such as
relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion,
drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, urinary retention,
pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression.
What are the overdose effects?
Overdose may result in stupor, changes in pupillary size, cold
and clammy skin, cyanosis, coma, and respiratory failure
leading to death. The presence of triad of symptoms such as
coma, pinpoint pupils, and respiratory depression are strongly
suggestive of opioid poisoning.
Which drugs cause similar effects?
Drugs that cause similar effects include other opioids such
as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone,
methadone, and heroin.
What is the legal status in the Federal Control Substances Act?
Fentanyl is a Schedule II narcotic under the United States
Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
SOURCE: A DEA Resource Guide 2017 Edition