What is fentanyl?

Updated: Jul 19, 2021
  • Author: Everett Stephens, MD; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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Fentanyl or its analogues—either diverted or illegally produced—appears to be responsible for much of the increase in synthetic opioid overdoses. Fentanyl, which is often mixed with heroin, cocaine, or both, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. [4] Fentanyl analogues, such as carfentanil, which is 100 more times more potent than fentanyl and is approved only for veterinary use, are also a rising cause of opioid overdoses, often fatal. [5]  By 2016, overdose deaths involving fentanyl surpassed those from heroin and exceeded those from any other drug. From 2016 to 2017, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (eg, fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) increased 45%, from 6.2 to 9.0 per 100,000 population. [6]


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