Fentanyl is a very potent opioid pain reliever. A few grains can be enough to kill you.
Learn why it is so dangerous and what you can do in the case of an overdose.
On this page
- About fentanyl
- What makes fentanyl so dangerous
- Fentanyl exposure for first responders
- Drug-checking services
- Short-term effects of fentanyl
- Long-term effects of fentanyl
- Risks related to fentanyl use
- Substance use disorder and withdrawal
- Signs of a fentanyl overdose
- What to do if you suspect an overdose
Fentanyl is usually used in a hospital setting. A doctor can also prescribe it to help control severe pain.
For medical purposes, you may take prescribed fentanyl in the form of:
- skin patches
In non-medical situations, you will experience a quick rush of well-being (euphoria) when fentanyl is injected, smoked, snorted or ingested in high doses. Euphoria is followed by a period of calm lasting 1 to 2 hours.
Misuse of patches may also produce this effect.
Reports indicate that the euphoria from fentanyl is less than with heroin or morphine.
Fentanyl enters the Canadian illegal drug market in 3 ways:
- illegal import from other countries
- product from illegal laboratories in Canada
- theft of medical fentanyl products (mainly skin patches)
Fentanyl is cheap for drug dealers to make into a street drug, compared to other opioids, but it is more powerful. Because only a few grains is enough to kill, fentanyl is causing high rates of overdose and overdose deaths.
Drug dealers who make fake pills may not know or control how much fentanyl goes into each pill.
Drugs may also become contaminated with fentanyl accidently when drug dealers re-use surfaces and equipment that have been used for fentanyl.
Fentanyl and its equivalents (analogues) are controlled under Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Activities such as sale, possession and production are illegal, unless authorized for medical, scientific or industrial purposes.
What makes fentanyl so dangerous?
Fentanyl is a dangerous drug because:
- It is 20 to 40 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. This makes the risk of accidental overdose very high.
- It is odourless and tasteless. You may not even know you are taking it.
You increase the risk of overdose if you use fentanyl with:
Fentanyl exposure for first responders
Skin exposure to fentanyl is extremely unlikely to harm you immediately.
There are still steps you should take to protect yourself. Find out what you need to know about fentanyl exposure.